Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood,
he also himself likewise took part of the same, so that
through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.
I was reading in Hebrews 2:14 and have a question. What does “the power of death” refer to in this verse?
The answer to that question is a beautiful mystery, a well of joy and understanding. I hope that you can remember your Old Testament well enough, and that I can express myself well enough, to make the answer plain.
After his fall into sin, man had no way of having communion with God. God gave some commandments to certain righteous men and women which provided those people with the opportunity to obey God and, therefore, have hope; but there was no way for man to truly live in spirit; that is, to know the heart and mind of God and, so, be able to live in the world as He lives in heaven. Man was cursed with death, and the world over which he had dominion was cursed with him. All mankind became, to use Jesus’ words, “of the world” because both man and his dominion, the world, were cursed with death. Solomon almost went mad trying to find something “under the sun” that was not cursed with death, something that was not “vain”. He finally gave up; there was nothing on earth that was eternal, he decided.
What Solomon saw, in part, was that fallen man, dead within, was completely unable to escape death’s power. We see something Solomon could not understand; namely, that being unable to escape death meant that man was unable to escape Satan’s power to deceive. That is how Satan became, as Paul said, “the god of this world.” Satan moved almost at will and prospered in the world because it was dead, like him, and man was also dead (to God’s life). Satan “had the power of death” because the darkness of death gave him power over men who lived in spiritual blindness to the things of God.
Now, let’s pause to consider the glory of the Law of Moses. Without God’s help, I could not possibly have believed this verse from Romans 5; no, not even if an angel had come down from heaven and told me: It is one of the most unexpected and amazing truths that Jesus ever revealed to man: Paul wrote, “For death reigned from Adam to Moses.” What? From Adam To Moses? Why not from Adam to Jesus?
The answer is beautiful, I think.
Under the Law of Moses, as you will remember, God’s people were in bondage to the flesh. As my father used to say, “Under the Law, the old man (the flesh) got everything; under grace, the new man, the inner man, gets everything.” Under the Law, the flesh was circumcised, baptized, ate the holy feasts, wore physical clothes. Under this New Covenant, the spirit of man gets everything: the heart is circumcised, not the body; the spirit is baptized, not the flesh; the spirit drinks of the Spirit and eats heavenly manna and the flesh is left out; in this New Covenant, the soul of man is dressed to worship God, and the physical clothes the flesh wears in no way make us holier or acceptable to God.
With dead material, the OT people of God were required to worship God. By “dead material”, I mean non-living, earthly material such as the threads of gold and silk, etc., things that were used to weave the tabernacle and the priests’ garments, the precious stones the high priest wore, the massive stones that were used to make Solomon’s temple, the brass and stones for the sacrifice altar, the gold for the holy utensils within the temple, the gold and silver in the lamps that burned before God, etc. Even the skins and the boards that were a part of the sanctuary, though they were from animals and trees that once lived, were dead. It was all dead -- but this time, Satan was not in charge of dead things!! God had designed and sanctified those materials and works of the Law for His people to use to foretell of the coming of His Son.
Now think of this! Jesus is so great in God’s sight that the works of the Law, though employing dead matter, were not considered “dead works” while God was using them. They were called “dead works” only after Jesus came and replaced them with worship in the holy Ghost. The holy Ghost is the Spirit of LIFE! There is not the first bit of death in it! If there was such a thing as a law that could make men righteous, Paul told the Galatians, then the Law that God gave Moses would have done it! But no law that is on the outside of a man can make a man holy on the inside. That is why the holy Ghost was so very, very important; it brought the law of God INSIDE! It wrote God’s law on men’s hearts and made them holy as God is holy, giving them eternal life and abolishing the dominion of death -- and so, abolishing the dominion of Satan -- over their hearts and minds. Praise God!! This is getting good!
Jesus is so important, Randell, so holy and precious to God, that even the Law that foreshadowed him was holy; that dead thing liberated men from the dominion of death. All man had to do was follow God’s directions, delivered to Israel by Moses!! How simple was that?
Under the law, men used dead things that God had anointed, things Satan had used to deceive them, things that Satan usually lived and prospered in, to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, and thus escape death forever! This is why Paul said that death reigned over man from Adam to Moses, not from Adam to Jesus, as we would have expected him to say.
So, Satan had the power of death only because man was dead to the things of God. When man became alive to God, Satan had no more power of death as far as liberated man was concerned. He still has power over men who are still dead, but nobody has to remain dead because all are welcome to “come drink the waters of life freely.”that could touch him! Praise God!!
There is more to this, but I just can’t get it out now, Randell. Just pray about it. I feel to good to write any more right now. Jesus said that he came to bring us life -- and life “more abundantly”! Praise God. Let’s live, Brother Randell! Let’s just live in the light of life that Jesus purchased for us with his death to sin and then his death on the cross!
Thank you Pastor John for this wonderful reply. You are right, the answer is beautiful. I have read this at least seven times, and it gets better each time I read it. It makes you appreciate and love what Jesus did that much more. If men could read this and understand it, they would run from Christianity to Jesus.