Death and Hades Keys
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10. Death and Hades Keys
Revelation 1.17-20

"When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said, 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold death and Hades' keys. Therefore, write what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the seven churches' angels, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.'" (Revelation 1.17-20)✞

Calm Storm

Transfiguration ChurchAs the Roman government stepped up its second-century Christian persecutions, the Apostle John must have wondered if the church would die out altogether or whether it could survive. When the glorious and splendid Jesus appears, he reassures John, "Do not be afraid," for he and his fellow believers have God's strength to face these trials. There are several other New Testament instances when Jesus tells his disciples, "Do not be afraid." On the notoriously turbulent Galilee Sea, when strong winds blow through the surrounding valleys and fierce storms result, Jesus says to John and the others, "Do not be afraid." Matthew 14.27 reads, "Jesus immediately said to them, 'Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.'"

Holy I AM

MosesAt Jesus' Transfiguration, John is frightened by Moses and Elijah's appearance in an eerie cloud. In the Garden of Gethsemane, at the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem, the soldiers fall fearfully to their knees when Jesus utters the holy "I am" name. Jesus then reassures his disciples, "Do not be afraid."

death and Hades' Keys

KeyJesus Christ holds death and Hades' keys. Jesus alone can open these two compartments in the underworld. Death is under Jesus' sole power and authority. "Death and Hades' keys" keep people in or let them out. The Greek "Hades" means "unseen" and translates the Hebrew "Sheol." "Hades" or "Sheol" basically describes the dead's resting place in an unseen location. "Hades" is an ancient Greek underworld god emphasizing the afterlife dread of that awful place. "Sheol," on the other hand, describes "the home of the righteous and the wicked." Lazarus' and Dives' story speaks clearly about these two places in Luke 16.19-21. We read, "There was a rich man dressed in purple and fine linen who lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores."

Facing death

Scorpion StingAfter their deaths, the wicked Dives remained in "Hell," and the righteous Lazarus ended up in "Paradise" with Abraham. Luke 16.22-23 tells us, "The time came when the beggar died, and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, beside Lazarus."

Death's Shadow

Jesus elaborates in Revelation 1.17b-20, "I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One. I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold death and Hades' keys." Jesus Christ leads those who believe in him facing death into eternal life. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), the renowned Baptist preacher, wrote a devotional book called "Mornings and Evenings." He wrote, "God removes death's substance, and only its shadow remains. Nobody fears a shadow, for it cannot block a person's pathway even momentarily, nor can "death's shadow." The dog's shadow cannot bite; the sword's shadow cannot kill. Jesus alone frees human beings from death's fear. Jesus, the world's light, produces light that removes all shadows. Believers don't have to fear death because Jesus of Nazareth holds "the keys of death's terrors and Hades' eternity." Those who face premature death from Cancer, Covid-19, or AIDS need to remember that Jesus' power was available to John and the Early Church in their second-century persecutions and is accessible to us today. He will lead those Christians facing the end through death's shadow into eternal life.

Life Maze

MazeThe American speaker and author Roger von Oech (1948-present) writes, "Life is like a maze in which you try to avoid the exit." Christians don't have to avoid the exit! They can look forward to it, for they know the blessings beyond. When the end comes, and we confront the grave, be assured that death has no sting. All the body's life may ebb away, but the Spirit lives on in a Christian. Their soul, mind, and personality continue in a new incorruptible body. Jesus takes away death's power from those who love and serve him. Jesus said to Lazarus's sister Mary in her bitter grief over her brother's death in John 11.25b-26, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" This great question bears forth the earth-shattering truth that Jesus destroys even "death and its shadow."

"Who holds the death and Hades' keys?"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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