Fearing Satan or Fearing God
“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell” (v. 5)
N.T. Wright thinks the verse above is talking of Satan, but I always thought it was talking about God. The way I thought was that God should be feared and that we should remember that in order to pursue holiness. In other words, in this passage, we should be mindful of God’s just punishment and turn to him in repentance. N.T. Wright would say that Satan as authority to throw people into hell in this passage. Hell is an interesting concept here because it is Gehenna in the Greek. Gehenna was the valley outside Jerusalem which was a rubbish-dump or landfill. It stank and burned continuously with the refuse of Jerusalem. The idea of hell, then, is the place where things have ceased to serve their purpose and are burned up as garbage. People are created for a purpose to serve God, but some of them do not. Those who do not become remade in a way that God sees fit are collected as trash and burned. So who is the garbage collector? Does God collect his garbage or does Satan delight in declaring people as garbage? I would say that the fear should not be rooted in the one who throws out the garbage, but that we would not serve our purpose and therefore be declared garbage. We should fear either God or Satan throwing us aside with either Satanic glee or Fatherly grief. We have choices that lead us to hell. We make decisions that put us by the curb ready for collection on garbage day.
The idea of being useless contrasts with the idea of being useful. The Bible calls us pots and Paul commends people for being useful to him in his ministry. Although the Pharisees and Sadducees had a lot to do, they were missing the true path of God and had created a path of burdensome self-righteousness. In the world today, there are those who advance science and medicine in ways that I believe please God, but they often miss God himself. Jesus, in the passage below, is starting to divide his disciples from the masses. There are those who find the true path and those who do not. The consequences are eternally significant. What path defines your life?
My discipline is poor and my patience is thin. My resources are meaningless and my life is a breath. I pray that your work would be done through me so that my words would have weight and my life would have significance because I was created for eternity and not for this meagre life span that I have on earth. You are God and I fear you with reverent awe. Satan desires me and I fear the darkness that engulfed me in times I have not been guarded.
- Who is coming to Jesus?
- Who does Jesus draw to himself?
- What is Jesus’ point in doing so?
- Why are Christians shy about discussing Gehenna or Hell?
- What is the significance today of Jesus’ words?
Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”