Wednesday, 29 August 2018
…and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hebrews 2:15
This verse is a part of a whole thought which started in verse 14. Together they say –
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
As is seen then, the author notes in the immediate context that the purpose of Christ taking on human flesh had two aspects to it, one following after the other. First, it was to make void (note commentary on previous verse) the power of the effective working of the devil. In accomplishing this, it would then “release those.” The word translated as “release” is a rare one, having been seen only once in Luke and once in Acts. This is its third and final use. It gives the sense of delivery or removal. Next, he identifies the previous state of those who have been released. It was those who had a “fear of death.”
What he is conveying is that humanity has always been afraid of death. We may ignore it, we may forcibly push it out of our minds, we may deny it, but the lingering fear of death is always there. And this fear is not only for ourselves, but it is also there for those we love. Further, the fear is there in various degrees, such as that of a long, painful, and lingering death. The reasons for fearing death are many. It means the end of the things we enjoy. It normally includes pain. It means that the body we have cared for and cherished will corrupt, putrefy, and breakdown. It means entering either into oblivion or into the presence of God. Either way, it means something completely different than that which we can now associate with. For these and other reasons, humans have a fear of death throughout “all their lifetime.”
From our earliest days, and throughout our entire lives, we are subject to this fear. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown goes so far as to say of this state that “Such a life can hardly be called life.” Man who is destined for death does not have true life. Our existence is vanity personified. The book of Ecclesiastes deals with this minutely.
The author then explains what this fear of death throughout our lives mean. He says by it we are “subject to bondage.” The Greek reads more literally, “subjects of bondage.” In other words, we are not simply liable to slavery, but rather we are completely captivated by it. This is the type of bondage we are in, a bondage which is completely captive to death. It guides everything we do in a very real sense. We look where we walk, we watch what we eat, we avoid certain places, and so on. Though it may not be at the forefront of our minds, it is always there in us because we are captive to it. But this is what Christ came to free us from. It is explained by Paul in Romans. First, it is a freedom from death itself; a granting of eternal life. Secondly, it is a freedom from fear of death, because death has no power over us (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
Death is considered an entity. It is not the simple act of dying, but the fear which accompanies it, which is removed. This is how Paul states it in Romans –
“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Romans 8:15-17
Life application: Unless the rapture comes and we are immediately translated to glory, we are all going to die physically. However, the death that we will face does not stand in victory over us. Instead, we stand in victory over it. Even in the act of physical death, we triumph. With our very last breath, we can still raise our hands to the Lord and cry out, “Victory!” Christ has prevailed; our physical death is merely a step into the eternal life He has secured for us.
Heavenly Father, life is one of bondage to the fear of death. It is an all-consuming and lifelong type of slavery. But in Christ, the bonds are broken and we are set free. We have victory over the foe, and we have the absolute assurance of life which is full, glorious, and eternal. Thank God for Jesus who has broken through and gone ahead of us, showing us the way back to You! Thank You, O God, for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.