What is the soul according to Matthew 10:28?

“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.” Matthew 10:28


And why is it valuable to know?

Because “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2Timothy 3:12).  People will curse you; people will hate you; people will despitefully use you (insult and slander you); and people might even try to kill you simply because you make those choices that amount to a godly life in Christ (Matthew 5:44). Because you love Jesus and do God’s will, “men shall revile (defame, chide, and taunt) you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you” (Matthew 5:11).

It is good to know just what comfort God is giving us in Matthew 10:28, because “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus” will need this comfort. It will be a shield to you when Satan’s hatred is turned on you to hurt you.


First, what Matthew 10:28 does not teach about the soul:

Matthew 10:28 is not teaching us about the nature of man. This passage is not saying that man has a body, and also a soul, as if they are different aspects of human nature. It is in the book of Genesis, in the creation account, where we learn about the nature of man – how he was made and what he is made of. When God breathed the breath of life into the man which he formed from the dust of the earth, the “man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Man was not given a soul as an immortal aspect of his nature, rather he himself became a living soul. A soul was something that man was. Man himself is the soul. When a man dies, the body and soul are not separated, as if they are two separate things. When a man dies the soul dies, because the man is the soul. They are one in the same thing.

Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Because the soul dies, we know that the soul is not an eternal aspect of man. “Man became a living soul,” and so when we read “the soul that sinneth,” we know that Scripture means “the man that sinneth.”  The man who sins, says the Word of God, will die, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). “The soul [the man] that sinneth, it [he] shall die.” The man dies = the soul dies.

Matthew 10:28 is not teaching us about the nature of man, and so it is not leading us to revise, or modify, this well established, biblical truth that “man became a living soul.”

What Matthew 10:28 does teach about the soul:

The “soul” in Matthew 10:28 refers to the Christian’s eternal life that is hid in Christ. This passage is actually reassuring the Christian of his salvation during the very real intensity of persecution. It points his eyes away from this perishing earth to the heavenly country that we so deeply long for. The life that is hid in Christ, the promise of all things good and eternal, cannot be touched or harmed by hurtful, wicked men, even when death is thrust upon the Christian by the hands of persecution:

“A Christianity that is spiritual will be opposed by the children of disobedience. But Jesus bade His disciples, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.” Those who are true to God need not fear the power of men nor the enmity of Satan. In Christ their eternal life is secure. Their only fear should be lest they surrender the truth, and thus betray the trust with which God has honored them.” E.G. White, The Desire of Ages, page 356 par 1

The “soul” is our eternal life in Christ.

The “body” in Matthew 10:28 refers to the temporal, earthly life:

“With Satan at their head to imbue them with his spirit, men may afflict God’s people, they may cause pain to the body, they may take away their temporal life, but they cannot touch the life that is hid with Christ. We are not our own. Soul and body, we have been bought with the price paid on the cross of Calvary; and we are to remember that we are in the hands of Him who created us. Whatever Satan may inspire evil men to do, we are to rest in the assurance that we are under God’s charge, and that by His Spirit He will strengthen us to endure. . .” E.G. White, This Day With God, page 371, par 2

“Soul” and “body” means “the life that is hid in Christ” and “the temporal life.” We owe both our current existence and the eternal life that Christ has given us in Him, to the One who paid the price of our redemption on the cross of Calvary. And though we perish, our life in Christ is assured, it is safe.


How the nature of man (being a living soul) works with Matthew 10:28 (the soul is the life hid in Christ):

God created human beings as living souls. And God created man to live eternally. Death was not part of God’s plan for mankind. And so when we read that “man became a living soul,” we are to understand that the term “living soul” describes man as God created Him, perfect and free from death.

But because of sin, death entered into our world and now all will sin, and all will die. Man is still a soul, but he is no longer a living soul, that is, he no longer has eternal life. It is only because of God’s plan of redemption that any man can hope to turn from his sins and be restored to the eternal life that God intended for mankind. When we receive Jesus and His righteousness we will be restored to live a godly life and receive eternal life in Christ:

“Many are starved and strengthless because, instead of eating of the bread which came down from heaven, they fill their minds with things of minor importance. But if the sinner will partake of the bread of life, he will, regenerated and restored, become a living soul. The bread sent down from heaven will infuse new life into his weakened energies. The Holy Spirit will take of the things of God, and show them to him; and if he will receive them, his character will be cleansed from all selfishness, and refined and purified for heaven.” Youth’s Instructor, November 11,1897, par. 4

In between the eternal life lost in Eden and the eternal life restored in Jesus Christ, we are considered dead. We are still souls, but no longer living souls. Until we receive Jesus Christ and follow Him, we are considered as dead in our sins:

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…” Ephesians 2:1

“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” Ephesians 2:5

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses…” Colossians 2:15

“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:59, 60

We were dead souls, so to speak, in our sins and trespasses, but we have been given life in Christ. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1John 5:11). “Regenerated and restored,” every true and faithful Christian has passed from death to life, and has become a living soul, for as long as he remains in Christ, even through death.


The Comfort:

When we are faced with the hatred, the insults, the slandering, and the reviling, when we are experiencing the “all manner of evil” being spoken against us for our witness, when we are beholding, with our own eyes, our own death speeding toward us on the arms of persecution, we will need divine help. It may even be that these evils are thrust upon us by those whom we consider to be our closest friends, complicating our grief, sorrow, and fears. Such was David’s experience: “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). When we are betrayed by the world, and by our own trusted friends, because we are loving Jesus and doing the will of God, we will need divine help.

We will need to be delivered. But the deliverance I’m talking about is not a physical deliverance. We will need to be delivered from sin when we are tempted to retaliate to save our own lives, or our reputations, or our dignity, or any degree of worldly honor that we may have. Who doesn’t feel hurt and embittered when slandered? Or insulted? Who doesn’t want to beg and fight for their life when the danger of being killed is a reality? Instincts kick in and it is natural to think and plan evil toward the one hurling evil at us.

I was experiencing this instinct to retaliate, and God spoke to my heart. He brought this understanding of “soul” in Matthew 10:28 to my remembrance. I was reassured that even though I was hurting, I was not being hurt. My life is hid with God in Christ. This truth became a shield to me. My eyes turned away from the earth and toward my Jesus. I saw Him delivered to the Gentiles, mocked, spitefully abused, spat on, scourged, and even put to death for doing the will of God (Luke 18:32, 33). Yet He remained pure and undefiled. Not a wicked thought of retaliation or hatred or self-protection entered His mind.

This righteousness of Christ became my own, and I was comforted. The instinct to retaliate calmed and vanished. The spite directed at me hit the shield and could not come in. My heart was filled with adoration for the beauty of Christ’s holiness and His mercy toward me in giving me deliverance from sinful desires while I was being spitefully mocked and insulted. I saw the bigger picture, the great controversy being played out in my own small life. I felt sorrow for sin, and a prayer for my persecutor entered my mind and rose to heaven. My faith was strengthened. When more serious persecutions come,  I know for certain that He will not suffer me to be moved. By His grace, I will not sin. By His grace, I will be perfect, both now and then, just as my Father in heaven is perfect.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

This comfort does not turn us into passive Christians that absorb and ignore abuses. We are ever to do the will of God, and that means to “stand in defense of truth when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few.” We are not weakened by pure hearts, but rather strengthened to continue in our Christian service. We are blind to insult and scorn, not in ignoring it and letting it pass by unrebuked, but in not being discouraged by persecutions, nor letting it change our course, even if we are threatened with death.

Knowing what the soul is in Matthew 10:28 was a great comfort to me. I pray that it may be to you also, as you go forward in the name of Jesus Christ doing God’s will, for it is a certainty that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2Timothy 3:12).


Dying in Christ:

To die in Christ means to die with the surety of being resurrected to receive eternal life with God and Christ. The Bible does not instruct us as to the mechanics of this miracle. We simply do not know how this miracle will be performed. We do not know how men who have gone to the dusty grave will be made living souls again. We do not know how our identity will be preserved. It has not been given us to know how, when we awake from death at the sound of our Saviour’s call, we will awake with our identities restored. None of these things have been revealed in the Word of God.

But we do know the gospel. We do know that man was created a living soul meant for eternal life, but, through sin, has lost this privilege. We do know that it is only in Jesus Christ that any man can be restored and regenerated to again become a living soul by the life that is in Christ.

All who die return to the dust, until, at the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, those who were faithful and true to His holy name will be raised to meet Him in the air to forever be with Him.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” 1Thessalonians 4:16-18

Comfort one another with these words.


Psalm 121

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. 
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. 
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. 
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. 
The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. 
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. 
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. 
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. 


Written by Donna Hernberg


Additional Quotes:

“In all ages Satan has persecuted the people of God. He has tortured them and put them to death, but in dying they became conquerors. They bore witness to the power of One mightier than Satan. Wicked men may torture and kill the body, but they cannot touch the life that is hid with Christ in God. They can incarcerate men and women in prison walls, but they cannot bind the spirit.” E.G. White, Acts of the Apostles, page 576, par 3

“Through trial and persecution the glory–the character– of God is revealed in His chosen ones. The believers in Christ, hated and persecuted by the world, are educated and disciplined in the school of Christ. On earth they walk in narrow paths; they are purified in the furnace of affliction. They follow Christ through sore conflicts; they endure self- denial and experience bitter disappointments; but thus they learn the guilt and woe of sin, and they look upon it with abhorrence. Being partakers of Christ’s sufferings, they can look beyond the gloom to the glory, saying, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18.” E.G. White, Acts of the Apostles, page 576, par 4

The strength given to Christ in the hour of bodily suffering and mental anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane, has been and will be given to those who suffer for His dear name’s sake. The same grace given to Jesus, the same comfort, the more than mortal steadfastness, will be given to every believing child of God, who is brought into perplexity and suffering, and threatened with imprisonment and death, by Satan’s agents. Never has a soul that trusts in Christ been left to perish. The rack, the stake, the many inventions of cruelty, may kill the body, but they cannot touch the life that is hid with Christ in God.” E.G. White, Signs of the Times,  June 3, 1897

“Persecution cannot do more than cause death, but the life is preserved to eternal life and glory. The persecuting power may take its stand, and command the disciples of Christ to deny the faith, to give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, by making void the law of God. But the disciples may ask, “Why should I do this? I love Jesus, and I will never deny His name.” When the power says, “I will call you a disturber of the peace,” they may answer, “Thus they called Jesus, who was truth, and grace and peace.”- Letter 116, 1896.” E.G. White, Selected Messages, Volume 2, page 421, par 1

“Satan was permitted to cut short the earthly life of God’s messenger; but that life which “is hid with Christ in God,” the destroyer could not reach. Col. 3:3. He exulted that he had brought sorrow upon Christ, but he had failed of conquering John. Death itself only placed him forever beyond the power of temptation. . . . ” E.G. White, Conflict and Courage, page 278, par 4

“Earnest, devoted young people are needed to enter the work of God as nurses. As these young men and women use conscientiously the knowledge they gain, they will increase in capability and become better and better qualified to be the Lord’s helping hand. They may become successful missionaries, pointing souls to the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world, and who can save both soul and body.” E.G. White, A Call to Medical Evangelism, page 18, par 2  [soul = eternal salvation, body = physical health]

“He is brought before an earthly tribunal, and those who legalized the traffic are forced to deal with the results of their own work. They authorized by law the giving to this man of a draught that would turn him from a sane man into a madman, and now it is necessary for them to send him prison and to the gallows for his crime. His wife and children are left in destitution and poverty, to become the charge of the community in which they live. Soul and body the man is lost, cut off from earth, and with no title to heaven.”  E.G. White, Review and Herald, May 29, 1894 [ cut off from earth = earthly life; no title to heaven = no life in Christ]

“There are many issues in our world today in regard to the Creator not being a personal God. God is a being, and man was made in His image. After God created man in His image, the form was perfect in all its arrangements, but it had no vitality. Then a personal, self-existing God breathed into that form the breath of life, and man became a living, breathing, intelligent being. All parts of the human machinery were put in motion. The heart, the arteries, the veins, the tongue, the hands, the feet, the perceptions of the mind, the senses, were placed under physical law. It was then that man became a living soul.” E.G. White, This Day with God, page 273, par 3