I am writing to you again, Father Angelo, since I have a question about Matthew’s scripture: “rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Mt 10,28).
In the past, I heard sermons in which there were conflicting views about who owned this power. A priest said it was the devil, another one said it was God.
Before writing this email, I surfed the internet, but I could not find much about this particular sentence. You may be my last hope of figuring it out.
Thank you for your answer.
The priest’s answer
1. Since God is the only judge, it falls right in line that the judge who sentences the punishment is God.
This is clear in Mt 25,31-33 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
Moreover: “(the king) will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mt 25,41).
Then: “From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” (2 Tm 4,8).
2. Satan may be the accuser, but he is not the judge: “Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night.” (Ap 12,10).
Already in the Old Testament Satan is introduced as the accuser, the one that temps humans and leads them to sin. This is what happened to Job, accused of being righteous because God was preventing Satan from hitting him (see Gb 1,10-11).
3. We need to remember that the Lord condemns the reprobates and sends them to Hell with an anthropomorphic language; in God we can find the behavior of a human judge.
Still, God does anything in order to save humankind from condemning themselves.
Hell is always a form of self-exclusion, as the Catechism of Catholic Church affirmed.
4. I would like to highlight a statement from St Augustine, who said that the holy text affirms that God can destroy the soul and the body in the Gehenna.
As St Augustine said: “However, we still rightly speak of the death of the soul because it no longer lives in God.” (The city of God, 13,2). Without God the soul is empty, like dead.
“And it is also spoken of the death of the body” although the body also rises in the end and subsists forever, “for in this last damnation, although man does not lose his feeling, nevertheless since this feeling will no longer bring him any sweetness nor any peace, but only the pain of punishment, this state deserves to be called more death than life”. (Ib.).
I wish you the fullness of life, I will keep you in my prayers and I bless you.
Translated by Rossella Roma