Elders from different places have written asking clarification for some texts oftheBi ble. Elder's Digest will present in this section some suggestions to help our readers in understanding the Bible. The Editor)

Matthew 5:19

"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom ofheaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom ofheaven."

This text does not mean that men who break God's commandments will get to Heaven, even though in a minor position. Jesus was clearly stating the attitude that the kingdom will take toward those who break the least commandment, or teach others to do so. They will be counted totallyunworthyofsalvation. They are considered the very lowest of the low by heavenly beings. Verse 20 enlarges on the fate of such people in the most emphatic terms: They "shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."

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."

Jesus clearly teaches in this text that the soul is not naturally immortal. It can and will be destroyed in hell. But what does He mean about killing the body, but not the soul? Is it possible for the soul to exist apart from the body? Some say it is, but the Bible indicates otherwise.

The Hebrew word "psuche" has been translated "soul" in this text, but in forty other texts it has been translated "life." For example, Jesus said, "Whosoever will lose his life (psuche) for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:25).

But what of Matthew 10:28? Put in the word "life" instead of "soul" and the text makes perfect sense in its consistency with the rest of the Bible. The contrast is between one who can take the physical life, and He who can take away eternal life. Here is proof in the words of Jesus: "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. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell..." (Luke 12:4,5).

In other words, the word "soul" here means not only life, but eternal life. Notice that Luke says everything just like Matthew except that he does not say "kills the soul." Instead he says "cast into hell." They mean the same thing. Men can only kill the body and take away the physical life. God will cast into hell and take away eternal life. Not only will their bodies be destroyed in that fire, but their lives will be snuffed out for all eternity.

I Peter 3:18-20

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, thatis, eight souls were saved by water."

There has been considerable misunderstanding of these verses of Scripture. It has been preached that Christ actually descended into the lower regions of the earth and preached to lost souls that were in prison in some purgatory or limbo. This is very far from what the text actually says. Let's look at it closely now and get the real message of these verses. It says, "Christ hath once suffered for sin that He might bring us to God being put to death in the flesh. But quickened by the Spirit by which also He went and preached...."

First of all notice how Christ preached to those spirits in prison. He did it by the Spirit, and that word is captitalized in your Bible. It actually refers to the Holy Spirit. So whatsoever Christ did in preaching during this period of time, He did it through or by the Holy Spirit.

With that in view, let's ask this, "When was the preaching done?" The answer is plainly given in verse 20: "When once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing." So the preaching was actually done while the ark was being built—during the preaching of Noah to that antediluvian world. Now, one more question: "To whom was the preaching done? "The text says here "to the spirits in prison...." Throughout the Bible we find this terminology used in describing those who are bound in the prison house of sin. David prayed "Bring my soul out of prison" (Psalm 142:7). Paul spoke ofhis experience in these words, "bringing me into captivity to the law of sin." What Peter is telling us here is simply that Christ through the Holy Spirit was present while Noah preached; Christ was there through the Holy Spirit to speak conviction to their hearts and appeal to them to come into the ark.

There is absolutely nothing here which indicates that Jesus departed from the body during the time He was dead to go to any subterranean place to minister to wicked spirits. The three questions are clearly answered in the text itself that He preached by the Holy Spirit, He did it while the ark was preparing, and He did it to the spirits in prison or to those individuals whose sinful lives were bound in the prison house of sin.