by Miltiades Yiapanis
We must understand that through Adam, death entered the human race. The initial effect of this death was spiritual and took place in the heart of Adam and Eve, their sin brought about a state of separation and alienation from God and cessation of the life-giving communion they had enjoyed with Him. This also led to man losing his lordship over the rest of the creation God had made subject to him. This death-dealing inward condition resulted in the ensuing physical death of Adam and his descendants. Physical death is, in fact, a transitional state and occurs when the functions of the body cease, forcing the inward part of man to separate and depart from the outward. Upon separation from its sanctuary, this invisible and inward does not cease to exist, but (for those outside of Christ) enters a place called Hades, the invisible and most dreadful side of death, where it is to remain until judgment day, when its final destination will be determined. Hades is usually described in the Bible as the prison of sinful, departed spirits, in the lowest parts of the earth and, if physical death is likened to the mouth of the death monster that swallows the soul, Hades is the belly. It is a dark kingdom, full of pain and despair, torment and thirst, a prison where souls remain in captivity with all who are dead in spirit. From this waiting place there is no exit until Jesus returns to bring His final judgment (Luke 16:23, Revelation 20:12&13). In the scriptures another death is mentioned and called the second death. It is seen to be that burning lake of fire into which the devil, death and Hades will be thrown, together with all those whose names are not found written in the book of life (Revelation 20:10-15). Little more is said about this final death although Paul refers to it as, “so great a death,” from which God who raises the dead delivers those in Christ, and gives them to experience some of power of that deliverance in the here and now (2 Cor.1v10).
The Scriptures reveal that until Christ invaded Hades the devil had the power of death and used it as his tool to keep all in bondage throughout their lifetime. “For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him (make him ineffective) that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to slavery” (Heb.2: 14&15). Each of us therefore, through the fear of death lived in bondage, slaves to sin and the devil and the elements of the world. It is so important to realize that what influences man in all that he does or does not do, whether he realizes it or not, is the fearful shadow death casts upon him. Man is a slave to the fear of death. Man, created to rule as a king under God, because of his sin, became trapped and dominated by fear. Jesus prime mission was to set us free by defeating death before He could lead us to the glory of sonship. The children of Israel needed to be delivered from the house of bondage before they were led to the Promised Land. God knew that the fear of death was the bitter fruit of a guilty conscience stained by sin and could not cease unless the cause was removed first. Sin must be taken away so that the great enemy death would be disempowered, for “the sting of death is sin”. If sin is dealt with death becomes harmless. Through the atoning death of Christ, sin was removed once and for all. Faith receives the blessing of sins forgiven and guilt washed away by the blood of Jesus. When Jesus the Great High Priest and Captain of our salvation took the sin of the world upon Himself on the cross, He died and Hades swallowed Him like it did with all its victims. Jesus thus tasted death by the grace of God for every man for He went down into the belly of the death beast, (our sins took Him there), but Hades could not keep Him, for He was triumphantly raised from the dead (Acts 2:24-27). As He moved towards His great tribulation, knowing what He was about to face and the power of this mighty enemy, “He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him (to His Father) that was able to save Him from death and was heard because of His godliness” (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus knew that should there be the tiniest defilement in His soul Hades would claim Him and confessed that there was nothing in Him that the enemy could claim (John 14:30). With what vehement spirit He prayed and cried to God, His Father that He be preserved through all and so fulfill His calling that every enemy might be overcome and destroyed (1 John 3:8). Jesus, though He took our sins, His soul remained pure and holy and undefiled by what He bore. Because of this, Jesus was saved from death, for though His body died His soul was saved from Hades and His Father raised Him from the dead. He was the firstborn from the dead and the firstfruits of many that were to follow (Colossians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 15:20). Having overcome death through His resurrection, He abolished death and brought life and immortality through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). We read that years later Jesus said to John in Patmos, “I am He that is alive, and was dead; and behold I am alive forever more, amen; and have he keys of Hades and of death” (Revelation 1:18). Since death was defeated by the atoning death of Jesus Christ, fear of it need no longer be the experience of those that believe and, being made free from slavery to fear they can now worship God in the face of death. The gates of Hades cannot hold in captivity those who die (sleep) in Christ, but immediately their eyes close they are transferred by angels to the presence of their Lord, and wait for the resurrection of their mortal body. Resurrection will be the last manifestation of His victory, for the word will be fulfilled “death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your sting? O Hades where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54&55) The salvation of God is declared in the gospel and by it men are called to repent and believe on Christ Jesus His Son that they might receive wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). The word of the gospel brings faith in the heart and enlightens the soul to see what Jesus accomplished through the cross. His blood has the power to restore and settle all accounts for the justification of the sinner before the eternal justice. It is precious and blots out all sin and guilt in the one who believes, washing him and setting him free from the power of sin and death.