1. The Heart of Obadiah (1:11-15).

Obadiah 1:11-15 ESV
On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. 12 But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress. 13 Do not enter the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity; do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity. 14 Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives; do not hand over his survivors in the day of distress. 15 For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.

Today we begin a new series of studies on the Old Testament prophets. For quite a while I have wanted to preach a series like this, because of all the types of literature in the Bible, I think the prophets get ignored the most. That is a shame, because the prophets were literally spokesmen for God. If you want to know what God is thinking, read the prophets.

I think one of the reasons we tend to ignore the prophets is that their messages were tied to events so far in the past that we find it hard to understand them. We are tempted to see them as outdated, irrelevant. But as we study the prophets over the next few months we are going to see that the messages they gave are just as applicable today as they were thousands of years ago. God’s word is never out of date.

But God’s word is dated. It was revealed in historical contexts, and sometimes is hard to understand unless we know something about those contexts. To simplify matters, I’m going to place each prophet we look at in one of four periods. Each period is an era of history. In the first period we will put those prophets who prophesied before the Northern kingdom fell to Assyria. In the second are those prophets who preached to Judah alone until Judah fell to Babylon. The third period is for those who prophesied during the exile. The fourth period is for those who prophesied when the Israelites began returning to rebuild the nation.

There is not a lot of consensus among bible scholars as to when Obadiah prophesied. I don’t want to be dogmatic about that issue then. But how one interprets the message has a lot to do with when one thinks it was given. I go along with those scholars who place Obadiah quite early. In fact, the reason I chose to preach about Obadiah first in this series is that I think he is actually the first of the canonical prophets. There were other prophets who came before him (like Elijah, Elisha, and Nathan), but I think it was Obadiah who first wrote a book containing his prophecies, and that book came to be named after him.

I place Obadiah’s prophecies during the reign of king Jehoram of Judah, which dates from 848-841 BC.

What do we know about Obadiah? Not a whole lot. His name means “servant of Yahveh” and it was a very popular name. In fact, the Arabic version of the name, “Abdullah” is still very popular today. In Old Testament times it was so popular that twelve other OT characters are called Obadiah, neither of which is the writer of this book.

We can say this about Obadiah: He saw God as being sovereign over time, and knew that God would eventually bring justice to Judah, but he wasn’t too concerned about that happening in his lifetime. Like the other canonical prophets who came after him, Obadiah saw into a future so distant that it would take centuries for his predictions to even begin to be fulfilled.

To really get the context of Obadiah, you have to go back all the way to Genesis. You will remember that Israel was born with the name of Jacob. His parents were Isaac and Rebekah. Rebekah gave birth to twins. Jacob’s twin brother was Esau. The Bible says that these two twins had been fighting each other even in their mother’s womb (Gen. 25:22).

Esau was the eldest, and, as such, stood to inherit a special blessing as Isaac’s firstborn. But (you remember the stories) he sold his birthright to Jacob for some stew. Jacob (fearing that Isaac would not honour that transaction) tricked his father into giving him the blessing.

The descendants of Jacob became the Israelites. In Obadiah’s time they inhabited Israel and Judah. The descendants of Esau became the Edomites. In Obadiah’s time they inhabited the area Southeast of Judah.

Verse 11 tells us what the problem was: “On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.”

What day is Obadiah talking about there? During the reign of Jehoram, Edom revolted against the rule of Judah, and set up their own king. (2 Kings 8:20-22). The LORD allowed that because he was punishing king Jehoram. He also sent a horrible bowel disease which inflicted no only the people of Judah, but even Jehoram himself. The third strike was that God allowed the Philistines and Arabians to attack Jerusalem, killing all but one of the king’s sons, and looting it of the royal treasures (2 Chron. 21:8-17).

The Lord blames Edom because it refused to help Judah during its time of distress.

The next three verses are so problematic that many translations do not render them literally. They are commands for Edom not to do certain things. The King James translated them as if God were saying “you should not have…” But some of the modern translations have gone back to translating these verses literally, and (in my opinion) rightly so. I think Obadiah is looking into the future to an event even more disastrous for Judah, and warning Edom not turn its back on his brother again. We know from history that Judah suffered its ultimate defeat under Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. At that time, even the great temple of Solomon was destroyed.

Specifically, Obadiah warns Edom not to do three things.

No Bragging (12) “But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress.” When bad things happen, don’t say “I told you so.”

No Looting (13) “Do not enter the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; … do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity.” When bad things happen, don’t make them worse by taking advantage of Judah when they are down.

No Bounty Hunting (14) “Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives; do not hand over his survivors in the day of distress.” When bad things happen, don’t make them worse by exacting revenge on the fallen.

Verse 15 begins with the word “For” or “Because.” It is the ground for what Obadiah has prophesied.

15 “For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.”

The heart of Obadiah’s message to Edom is a message for us all. Since Judgment Day is coming for everyone, we should not be too quick to assume that our enemies are just getting what they deserve. God expects us to love them, especially if bad things are happening to them.

The Message of Obadiah was foundational. It goes back to Leviticus 19:18, and is repeated by Jesus in Matthew 22:39.

The next time Judah was in serious trouble, the Edomites did the same thing. They helped the Babylonians ransack Jerusalem and helped capture and enslave Jews who were trying to escape. The Edomites no longer exist. They did not learn their lesson. God had sent his first missionary prophet to a people who were the enemies of the Jews. Obadiah’s message would go on to predict the utter destruction of Edom. He said “The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau, for the LORD has spoken” (18).

There is a message for you and me coming from the heart of Obadiah today. That message is about the people we might tend to marginalize because they are different from us. They are the beggars, and people suffering from natural disasters, or people caught in the trap of drugs, or some alternative lifestyle that we see as wrong.

It may seem like God has given up on those people. But Obadiah tells us that God is watching us to see if we will chose to love them. We may say, “They made their bed, let them lie in it.” That is exactly the attitude Edom had.
God is calling us to love the unlovable. If we are going to be children of our heavenly Father, we will have to act like he does.

ACST 24. The Immortable Being

The story of humanity begins in the past, in creation. It continues in the future, an eternal future set by God on Judgment Day. Those whom God judges as not worthy of restoration will experience “tribulation and distress,” and eventually will be destroyed by God’s “wrath and fury.” Those who respond to his grace in this life, and spend their lives seeking “glory and honor and immortality” by “patience in well-doing” will receive an everlasting life of “glory and honor and peace.”1 This is the destiny of humanity. Without an understanding of this future reality, one can never hope to fully comprehend what human beings are.

This eternal destiny is at the core of the Gospel message which Jesus revealed to the world by his ministry, death and resurrection. It involves salvation by grace, the abolition of death, and a call to live eternal lives which manifest God’s purpose for life.2 Our destiny is much more than a nice place to spend eternity. The good news is that we will be completely changed into the kind of persons who can inhabit a sinless eternity. Yet, the fact that such a transformation awaits us implies that somewhere within us today is the yearning for it: human beings are by nature – not immortal like God – but immortable.

Our conscience within us strives to share in God’s attribute of holiness. We grieve over sin and the loss and death it causes. We feel guilty when we do not live up to God’s standards. We feel angry when others sin, and when we sin. In the same way, there is something within us that reacts strongly to death – any death. We know death is real, and that it is inevitable. Yet we also know on a deeper level that it is wrong.

In 1999 Robin Williams starred in a film called “Bicentennial Man” based on the Novella by Isaac Asimov. The movie centered on the “life” of a robot that somehow gained sentience and was like humans in every way except that he could not die. Having outlived everyone he knew and loved, the robot decided to take his own life, in order to be truly human. The film is a reminder of how death defines humanity now, but perhaps it sends the wrong message.

The Bible also preaches the reality of death, but it does so as the backdrop to the glorious good news that death is not what defines humanity. Our purpose is life and life forever. To insist that death is what makes us truly human is to miss that glorious truth.

Life as a Gift

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible depicts eternal life not as a present possession, but as a gift that is promised to believers by a loving, generous and kind God (who currently is the only one who possesses it). The tree of life that God planted in Eden was a symbol of that gift. God gave no prohibitions against the tree of life. Yet our ancestors, convinced that it was the other tree that would give them life, ignored the real opportunity until it was taken away from them.

A lawyer had once asked Jesus “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?,” and Jesus taught the parable of the Good Samaritan in reply.3 The question that the lawyer asked was actually quite perceptive. He knew that eternal life was not a given – not an innate characteristic. He should also be given credit for asking Jesus, because Jesus through his sacrificial death has made eternal life a possibility for all humanity again. It is “through Christ alone (that the) doom is reversed, and man becomes capable of immortality.”4 Unfortunately, Jesus knew that the lawyer’s heart was not right, although his question was. The lawyer was still “desiring to justify himself”5 which is a way of avoiding God’s grace – the only means of justification. He was determined to get life by taking of the wrong tree. Jesus left him with a means of measuring whether he was truly living up to the law that he professed to live by.

In many other places, the New Testament speaks of salvation as the gift of eternal life.6 To speak of eternal life or immortality as an innate possession cheapens this doctrine. The teaching about eternal life as a gift from God is the heart of the Gospel message. We humans know that we are facing death. The good news is not that death is an illusion, but that Jesus offers hope beyond it. That hope is the kingdom of God, ushered in by a resurrection.

The Kingdom and Eternal Life

In Christ, the opportunity for eternal life (lost at Eden) has been restored. When our Lord taught about his return for judgment, he said he will call all the nations to him, and separate people from each other, the sheep from the goats. They will be separated according to their destiny. Those goats destined for permanent destruction will be separated from the sheep who are destined for permanent life.7 Christ said it would be he who judges. Jesus calls this eternal life “the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world.”8 By doing this, Jesus weaves together two biblical concepts into one fabric: the kingdom of God and the resurrection. Both concepts put together suggest that believers are destined to live forever, but unbelievers are not.

Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man afforded him another opportunity to talk about the kingdom and the eternal life it will bring.9 Again, it is clear that both concepts are woven together into the same issue. The young man asked “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”10 When Jesus’ answer did not suit him, the young man left. Jesus used that public rejection as an opportunity to teach about – the kingdom of God. He said “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”11

A Pharisee named Nicodemus was also privy to a discussion with Jesus on the same issues.12 Jesus taught him that one has to be born again to see the kingdom of God.13 He also said that he (the Son of Man) would be “lifted up” like the serpent in the wilderness was.14 The story from the Old Testament is important to review.

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea,
to go around the land of Edom. And the people became
impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God
and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of
Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and
no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the
LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit
the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the
people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we
have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the
LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses
prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make
a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is
bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze
serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone,
he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
(Numbers 21:4-9 ESV).

The people had sinned and the wages of that sin was death. They asked Moses to intercede for them, that God would take the serpents away. Instead, God instructed Moses to make a symbol of the curse itself, and set it up for all to see. Anyone bit by the serpents would be redeemed from the curse and gain life on the condition that they look on the symbol in faith.

Jesus taught Nicodemus that the Old Testament story was a simile for how God has chosen to deal with a rebellious, sinful people. Like the serpent in the wilderness, the cross is the symbol of death, the due punishment for our rebellion and sin. But God in his grace has offered a way to escape the punishment. Those who believe in Christ are reborn – not of the flesh (natural birth), but of the Holy Spirit (a supernatural birth. These can both see and enter the kingdom of God.15 They will have eternal life.16 They will be saved from the condemnation that will come upon all the rest.17

John (the Gospel author) comments later in such a way as to connect the ideas of the kingdom of God and eternal life. He says that “the Father loves the Son and had given all things into his hand.”18 He is referring to the authority to rule the earth: the kingdom of God. In the next verse, he says “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”19 Faith and obedience come together in the concept of the kingdom.

John also explains the details so that there is no mistake about what it means to receive eternal life by believing in Christ. Does it mean that believers will never die? No, it means that upon believing in Christ, believers will inherit the promise of eternal life in God’s kingdom. Believers continue to die, but that death is only temporary. The state of death will be interrupted by a resurrection. In chapter 6, John records Jesus talking about the promise of inherited life seven times.20 But he is careful to also point out that this inheritance will come to pass by means of a resurrection, which will take place “on the last day.”21 Believers possess eternal life now in the same way that a rich person’s young daughter possesses all the wealth she is due to inherit.


If there is an innate characteristic that gives hope to all humanity, it is not immortality. It is immortability. God created humans with the potential for immortality. It is that reality within each of us that drives us toward two goals that appear to be polar opposites. On the one hand, we see all human life as valuable (because God has invested it with immortability) and therefore seek to protect it. Every person on earth has a right to live, and that right should be protected. We believe in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, Christians should be on the front lines in the battle to protect the unborn, the aged, and all those who are in danger of being prematurely killed by a society which marginalizes them. This includes all those who are in danger of dying from starvation, war, domestic violence, or preventable disease due to government corruption and lack of accountability. To be pro life is to seek to protect it in all its forms, because all human life is potentially immortal life.

On the other hand, this chance to gain immortality by entering God’s kingdom through obedience to and faith in Christ is worth risking this present life for. We believe in persevering in our faith “even to death”22 if that is necessary. Our Lord said that “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”23 The believer who is confident of his standing in Christ is willing to risk his life as a witness to that confidence. Both the sanctity of life and Christian martyrdom stem from the fact that humans are immortable: we have potential for life beyond the grave.


1 Romans 2:6-10.

2 2 Timothy 1:8-11.

3 Luke 10:25-37.

4 James Hastings, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Part 2 (New York: Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 548.

5 Luke 10:29.

6 John 10:28; 17:2; Acts 13:46,48; Romans 5:21; Galatians 6:8; Titus 1:2; 3:7; 1 John 2:25; 5:11-12; Jude 21.

7 Matthew 25:31-46.

8 Matthew 25:34.

9 Mark 10:17-31.

10 Mark 10:17.

11 Mark 10:23.

12 John 3:1-21.

13 John 3:3.

14 John 3:14.

15 John 3:3, 5.

16 John 3:15-16.

17 John 3:17-18.

18 John 3:35.

19 John 3:36.

20 John 6:27, 33, 35, 40, 47, 51, 53.

21 John 6:39, 40, 44, 54.

22 Rev. 12:11.

23 Matthew 10:39; 16:25.

Remember, Repent, Return

Jesus commanded his followers to celebrate communion in remembrance of him – what he did for us on the cross.

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

“and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24).

It is a celebration of grace. As we remember God’s grace – we will naturally respond to that grace by loving him for what he has done.

That love will naturally produce works of love. Just as we have been learning from Paul in Galatians – grace does not produce laziness. It produces the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

The churches in Ephesus had experienced that reality. Paul talked about their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and their love for all the saints (Eph. 1:15).

But just a few years later, something had happened in Ephesus. Jesus sent them this message:

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:4-5).

How could the Ephesians get back the zeal they had when they first came to Christ?

First, Jesus commanded them to remember from where they had fallen. There had been a time when God’s grace was so real to them that it made the world new – like when you get your first pair of glasses.

Secondly, Jesus commanded them to repent. Any life-change begins with a mind change. Most people who finally overcome an addiction or achieve significant weight loss remember a turning point – a time when their mind gets redirected toward health and wholeness. That’s what it means to repent. There may be battles ahead, but repentance is when you finally decide to enlist in the war.

Thirdly, Jesus commanded the Ephesians to return to the works they did at first. I think the order is very significant here.

If you don’t start by remembrance – by celebrating God’s grace – the works you try will be dead works. They won’t accomplish anything.

If you don’t personally repent, those sins you are hanging on to will keep dragging you down and you will not see victory.

Those of us who remember God’s grace and have repented of our sins are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

As we walk in those works we will find that old feeling creeping back into our hearts – that feeling of newness, joy, and love.

If you are here today, and you have not yet responded to God’s grace by giving your heart in repentance, make that decision as you partake of these symbols of that grace.

For those of us already in Christ, as we remember God’s grace, let us respond by determining to do the works we did at first.

Excursus: The Unkillable Soul

Matthew 10:28 is a watershed text. It serves as a rope, and on either side of the rope is a group of well-meaning Christians tugging over the issue of human nature and destiny. On the one side are those who teach innate immortality. These draw support from Matthew 10:28a, where Jesus compares the body, which can be killed by other men, to the soul, which cannot. This side of the debate believes that “in death, the body only dies; but the soul lives on uninterruptedly, and is immortal.”

On the other side of the rope are conditionalists. We tend to emphasize Matthew 10:28b, where Jesus speaks of God being able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna hell. We reason that anything that can be destroyed is not by nature immortal. We do not believe that “Matt. 10:28 presupposes a sharp division between body and soul in which the ‘soul’ is the more important, immortal part.” We see that presupposition as reading into the text of Matthew 10:28a a dualistic view of the nature of humanity which is not reflected in the rest of Scripture, and essentially denies the reality of death.

In a recent article on this text, David Burge summarized a conditionalist approach:
1. The Bible affirms that death is a real event which affects the whole person.
2. In hell, the lost will suffer complete destruction; no part of them will survive.
3. Jesus is teaching that the first death is only temporary. The resurrection will reverse it.
4. Jesus is teaching about the nature of God here, not the nature of man. Believers should fear God, not human persecutors.

Psuché in Matthew

If our brothers with the innate immortality view are right, Jesus is affirming something about the nature of humanity in Matthew 10:28a. He is teaching that there is a part of every human being that God has made indestructible. This is the soul. One way of assessing the validity of that interpretation is to cross-reference each occurrence of the word soul (psuché in Greek) as it appears in Matthew’s Gospel. This should help us grasp how Matthew understood the term – whether or not he understood it as an immortal part of every human being.


The first occurrence of psuché in Matthew comes from the mouth of the Angel of the Lord. He tells Joseph that it is safe to return to Israel from Egypt because those who sought Jesus’ life are dead. The word the angel uses for life is psuché. It is clear that the angel is speaking about Herod’s desire to kill Jesus, to prevent him from challenging the authority of the Herodian dynasty. There is absolutely no way to read into this statement any affirmation of human immortality. Perhaps this is the reason that the translators of many versions render the term psuché as life in this passage. Matthew is using the word psuché as the Old Testament usually does: as a reference to the life of the whole person.


In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses the term psuché to talk about human appetites. He tells his disciples not to worry about their psuché: “what you will eat or what you will drink.” This is a significant text in the debate for two reasons: 1) these are the words of Jesus, so they reflect how Jesus used the term psuché; 2) Jesus also used the word body (sōma) in the same verse.
Crucial to the innate immortality position is the assumption that body and soul are contrasting terms. Yet, in this passage body and soul are not contrasted. Both body and soul are terms which imply the earthly, fleshly appetites. The body is concerned with what it will wear, and the soul is concerned with its next meal. Clearly Jesus is not teaching that what one eats and drinks is more important than what one wears. He is not contrasting the soul with the body. Both soul and body are used here to refer to earthly, fleshly appetites of the whole person. Nor is Jesus downplaying the importance of these human needs. He is merely teaching that the kingdom of God is more important. That is what believers should concern themselves over.


Another significant use of psuché by Matthew occurs just eleven verses after 10:28. This is within the most immediate context. The situation and audience is the same: Jesus is preparing the twelve disciples for the mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The threat is the same: believers are risking their lives if they proclaim the gospel. They will find that even the members of their own households will turn against them. To be a true believer is to face the sword and take up one’s cross.

Yet, Jesus is not telling his disciples that it is only their bodies that are threatened. He is actually encouraging them to surrender their souls to be killed. He tells them “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (NLT). Once again, the word life in that passage refers to the present life of the whole person, not an immaterial essence that survives death. But that term, life, is a translation of the same Greek word, psuché. If Jesus had meant to affirm that the soul is an immortal part of the human being that cannot die, why did he use the very same word to refer to the human life, which, by definition is mortal and in threat of dying? What is more, he is using the same term in the same message to the same audience.

So, conditionalists cannot accept the interpretation of Matthew 10:28a that insists that soul and body are separate anthropological entities, one of which is indestructible and the other is destructible. That interpretation contradicts what Jesus says in the four most important contexts of Matthew 10:28a. It requires that Matthew 10:28b be reread: anything that is indestructible cannot be destroyed, even by God. Therefore the innate immortality view insists that Jesus is talking about the perpetual torture of human souls, not their destruction. It requires that the same term be translated “life,” in 2:20 and 10:39, because the idea of an immortal soul cannot fit those texts. It also downplays the strong connection that the soul has with the body, as seen in 6:25.


Expanding the contextual boundaries a bit further, we find Jesus promising rest for the souls of those who take his yoke upon themselves. Jesus could not have been referring to merely the immaterial essences of the disciples, because in the previous verse he had said the same thing without using the word psuché: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Here Jesus uses the term psuché the same way as he did in the previous passages in Matthew: as a synonym for the whole person. It parallels the pronoun “you.”


In the next chapter, Matthew quotes Isaiah 42:1-3, which definitely does refer to an immortal soul. Unfortunately for the innate immortality view, that immortal soul is God’s soul. The text cannot prove anything about human souls. But in this text as well, the best way to understand God’s use of the word soul is as a parallel to the “I” in the same verse.


In chapter 16, Jesus repeats the same admonition that he gave his disciples in 10:39. Jesus is about to go to the cross, and he urges his disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow him. If they try to save their lives (by rejecting him) they will lose their lives. If they lose their lives (by being killed along with him) they will find them.

Here a rather peculiar thing happens. The word psuché appears in this passage four times: twice in v.25, and twice in v.26. Many of the modern translations render it as life in v. 25, and soul in v. 26. Apparently, the only reason for doing so is that v. 26, taken out of its context, could be used to contrast the soul with the body. In its context, however, v. 26 is saying the same thing that Jesus has said before: personal safety is not worth rejecting him.


In chapter 20, Jesus uses the term psuché referring to himself. He said that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many.” Again, the best translation for the term psuché is the English word life. It is clear that Jesus is referring to his impending death at Calvary. By his physical death on the cross, Jesus drank from the cup that led to atonement for the sins of the world. By dying that death, Jesus gave his “soul.” If the soul of every human being is immortal, then Jesus’ soul could not die. But if Jesus’ soul could not die, how could he give it as the world’s ransom?


In chapter 22, Jesus quotes from the Old Testament again. He had been asked which is the greatest commandment. He replied that it involved loving the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, and mind. Despite the fact that this text is a favorite of preachers due to its built-in three points, it is best to see “heart, soul and mind” as an example of hendiatrys. Jesus is emphasizing complete devotion to God. He is not teaching anthropology. Any of the three terms in this verse could have been used alone to convey the idea of complete devotion. Together they maximize the same emphasis.


The final example of psuché in Matthew’s Gospel is a quote from Jesus to his disciples at Gethsemane. He is in agony as he prays in the garden, knowing that his death is immanent. He explains to the disciples that his soul is “very sorrowful, even to death” and asks them to remain there with him and “watch.” It is clear from Matthew’s description of the event that Jesus’ body was also sorrowing. In fact, Matthew had said the same thing of the whole Jesus in v.37: “he began to be sorrowful and troubled.” So, once again, Matthew is using the term psuché as a parallel to a pronoun.

The Lucan Parallel

Luke 12:4 offers a synoptic view of the same statement as Matthew 10:28. Luke has Jesus saying “do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.” Luke does not even mention the psuché, thus avoids the perception of dualism, perhaps because he was writing to a Gentile audience who would have been more prone to dualistic thought. His emphasis was the same as that of Matthew. He was encouraging commitment to God rather than fear of man. The death that the persecutors threaten is a real death, but it is merely a temporary one. The cost of rejecting Christ is permanent destruction in Gehenna at the final judgment.

What Matthew 10:28a Does Not Imply

Having surveyed every use of psuché in Matthew, and looked at the only synoptic parallel passage, we are now prepared to infer from our text what it does not imply. It does not imply an obvious contrast between two parts of the human person. In every text investigated, the psuché is used of the whole person, not one of many parts. In many of the texts, the soul’s loss is inextricably linked to the death of the body. In the most immediate context – Matthew 10:28b – both body and soul are destroyed together at the final punishment of the wicked. Thus, 10:28a could not be implying the innate immortality of the soul. Also, the only significant thing this text implies about the intermediate state is that it is just that – intermediate. It does not imply consciousness. It is a state of death, albeit a temporary death.

What Matthew 10:28a Does Imply

Conditionalists are not prepared to concede that body and soul are two distinct parts of a human, nor that the soul is by nature immortal. But that does not mean that conditionalists refuse to take Matthew 10:28a seriously. We believe that freed from the shackles of platonic dualism this text is better able to convey the original intentions of both Christ and Matthew. They encourage believers to be more concerned about doing God’s will than cautious about how others might respond to their devotion. They also remind us that although death is real, it is not permanent. Between Matthew 28a and 28b there is space and time for the dead to be raised by God’s power at Christ’s return. For believers, this is cause for celebration.

October 2010 Newsletter from the Vanns in New Zealand

____________________[All photos are from Jachin Mandeno]

This is the Newsletter of Jeff and Penny Vann, missionaries with Advent Christian General Conference, currently serving in New Zealand as pastors-at-large with the Advent Christian Conference of New Zealand (ACCONZ). We serve as teaching pastors at Takanini Church of Christ, and Christian LIFE Church, Takanini, Auckland.

Decisions, Decisions. Jeff and I have had to make a number of decisions in the past couple of months. Jeff and I as of early February will be leaving the church here and New Zealand. We will also be resigning from the mission effective 3 months after we get back to the US. We have served the mission department for 14 years but we feel it is time. Our hearts still beat for the lost and for those who lack the opportunity for theological training. We are praying for ministry opportunities in the States as well as time and money to go on in our education. Hopefully getting our doctorates at sometime before Christ comes back. As to where in the States that we will be, we have not a clue. For those of you who have been praying for us all those years, you have helped us through victories and trials, thank-you. But, please don’t stop praying for us.

We are blessed to have Ernie Schache as part of our ministry team here in Takanini. He serves as an elder. Ernie has many years of experience with churches here, and a passion for missions. He presently serves as a Mission Manager for ACGC, overseeing the missions work being done by our partners in Myanmar, India, Thailand and Malaysia. You can find out more about Advent Christian Missions from the New Zealand ACMissionz website: http://www.acmissionz.org.nz/

I (Jeff) have been teaching a Greek class on Thursday nights to a small group of youth and adults. Penny and I have also been part of a Hebrew club that meets in a local seminary. We have been grateful to share with those who have a special interest in biblical languages. It is just one more way that we have found to be an encouragement to believers here.

Our church has lots of kids of all ages. This is something different for Penny and me. We are used to a college campus, where the only small kids were ours or those of the other faculty, or those who attend the campus preschool. It has been a joy to get to know this new generation of believers. It has also been challenging to adjust our teaching and preaching to meet their needs. The picture is of less than half of the children who come to church.

Penny will be teaching her Old Testament seminar again on October 31st in the city of Hamilton. Some of the attendees of the previous seminar asked her to teach it again at their church.

Penny also taught a very informative and enjoyable seminar on public speaking at Takanini Sunday afternoon, October 10th. That was designed to train those who have speaking parts in our worship services. Takanini Church integrates the young people into worship sessions by having them read the scriptures before the message. Other members take part by testimony, prayer, music and leading communion.

Some thoughts: The Bible speaks of God’s power “at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). We have noticed that God brings certain people into our lives to help us with a problem we did not anticipate. For instance while driving down the motorway (interstate) the car started to make a strange noise. So, we pulled off and exit and onto a side street to find we had a flat. Just as we started to get out the spare a teenager stopped his walk home from school to see if he could help. He stayed to help through the rain and hail getting soaked in the process, but definitely shortening the time it would have taken for Jeff to change it alone. We have also noticed that as we planned to teach or write on a certain topic, suddenly people come into our lives who illustrate the need for a biblical understanding on the same topic, affirming that we are right to study it. This is seen in that recently after finishing a lengthy study in Galatians Jeff met a man who was in bondage to the very things Galatians warns about. This shows us how sovereign God is in our lives. He is not just a transcendent God who is watching us “from a distance.” He is involved in our lives. He’s not just a supervisor. He’s a shepherd.

On the Internet:

Our Newsletters: http://vannnews.blogspot.com/

Jeff’s blog: http://jeffersonvann.blogspot.com/

Jeff’s theology book: http://anadventchristiansystematictheology.blogspot.com/

Advent Christian Conference of New Zealand: http://www.acconz.org.nz/

Takanini Church blog: http://takaninichurch.wordpress.com/

Jachin Mandeno’s photo site: http://mandenomoments.com/

Please Pray:

1) Penny and I will be returning to the United States and transitioning from mission work starting February, 2011. Please pray that we find jobs and that Jeff finds the right seminary to pursue his doctoral studies.

2) Pray as the Takanini Church looks for someone to serve in the teaching and preaching ministry after we leave.

3) Pray for Naomi as she continues to study at Columbia International University and is presently seeking a missions internship.

4) Pray for Elizabeth and Connie, that they continue to serve the Lord, and take care of their families.