Chapter

Luke 12:4

ESV “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.
NIV I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.
NASB Now I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.
CSB "I say to you, my friends, don't fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more.
NLT Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that.
KJV And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.

What does Luke 12:4 mean?

Jesus has told the disciples to stay away from the hypocritical example of the Pharisees (Luke 12:1–3). Despite their popularity with the people, they are "like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it" (Luke 11:44).

This is a dangerous path, however. The Pharisees hold the hearts of the people. Jesus' constant fight with the religious leaders drives them to conspire to destroy Him (Luke 11:53–54). Eventually, they will succeed. Then, after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, they will come after the disciples as they start to build the church (Acts 8:1–3; 9:1–2).

Physical death is a tragic consequence of the fall (Romans 5:12). But for Jesus-followers, it is a temporary separation of spirit from body as the soul awaits a new, glorified body to inhabit for eternity (1 Corinthians 15). True death is permanent separation from God (Revelation 20:11–15). Pharisees can kill the disciples' earthly bodies, but they can't separate them from God—nothing can (Romans 8:38–39). Nothing can snatch the saved believer from the hands of God the Son and God the Father (John 10:28–30). The believer is sealed by the Holy Spriit, "who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:14, cf. Ephesians 1:3–14).

The only apostle whose death is recorded in Scripture is that of James, the brother of John. His death was not really related to the Pharisees; he was killed by Herod Agrippa I who afterward found out the religious leaders approved (Acts 12:1–5). Of the traditions that give accounts of the apostles' deaths, only Matthias might have been killed in Judea where the Jewish religious leaders held sway. But Paul will later say that "when [the Christians in Jerusalem] were put to death I cast my vote against them" (Acts 26:10). We know that Jewish religious leaders executed at least one Jesus-follower in Jerusalem: Stephen (Acts 7).

This verse contains subtle differences to the similar account in Matthew 10:28: "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…" In Matthew, the tense of "fear" indicates constant fear, while in Luke, it means a general attitude. Matthew also specifies what "more" would entail—killing the soul—which refers to the separation of the whole person from God.
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