“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Jesus Christ) also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15 KJV)
I will be examining two questions from this passage:
- How was the devil “destroyed?” Isn’t he still alive and active today?
- What was it that the fear of death held people in bondage to or from?
Regarding question 1: The Greek word translated “destroyed” here is katargeo, which actually means “made void, ineffective, nullified.” Jesus didn’t eradicate the devil, he nullified him. In particular, Jesus’ death nullified the “power of death” which the devil had. I’m not entirely sure all of what that entails, but I do know we have to look at this spiritually, and Paul said that the mind of the flesh (the natural mind) is death, while the mind of the spirit is life and peace.1 I think the power of death has to do with keeping men naturally-minded and religious. This is done by continuing to offer fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, using law to keep men aware of their sins, and thus keeping men in a state of guilt and self-awareness (death). In short, the power of death is the power of accusation and guilt, fueled by law, which keeps one naturally-minded, self-focused and fearful of/withdrawn from God.
I believe that the devil’s power is nullified because there is no longer a legitimate claim of guilt or condemnation (or even “sin” in the sense of violating a written law) for those in Christ.2 The law’s purpose was to symbolize Christ, but because of the weakness of our flesh, law also functioned to bring natural-mindedness (spiritual death) through an awareness of sin, which fostered a fear of death and judgment.3 But in Christ, there is no written law, condemnation, guilt or “sin.”4 That’s an unchangeable fact. As Romans 8:33-34 says in the literal version: “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? God is the One justifying! Who is he condemning? It is Christ who has died, but rather also is raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession on our behalf.” Christ conquered death and is a permanent intercession. Having been nullified, the devil’s primary weapons are now deception and accusations which have no basis. I realize that some may worry this creates an excuse for people to “sin.” Maybe it does. But regardless, one who truly loves God and His Kingdom would abhor using God’s mercy as an excuse to gratify their flesh or dishonor Him, and God would not trust one with a selfish heart like that. If simply “getting to heaven” is your goal, then in reality you’re serving yourself, and God is just a means to get what YOU want.
Regarding question 2: what was it that the fear of death kept men in bondage to or from? I think the answer is simple, though it can be expanded upon greatly. The fear of death is the awareness and fear of judgment fueled by offended law, guilt, and self-focus. This fear kept men bound to the law and thus stuck in a cycle of sin and death, and bound from the spirit, thus kept away from righteousness and life.5 Bringing men into righteousness and life in the spirit is what the “freedom” in Christ is about. Our being freed from an awareness of sin and guilt is for the bigger purpose of freedom to participate in the spiritual Kingdom of God as sons. Jesus was sent to those who were under the law, who through the law had become spiritually poor, blind, broken and bruised,6 with no real relief in sight. He fulfilled this law and ended it in order to institute a “new way” of relating to God, in righteousness, spirit and truth, with God-awareness, not self-awareness. A return to a relationship with God as Father, not simply “master.”7 Hallelujah!
Now, let’s remember it’s not enough for us just to see and acknowledge these truths (and I only see them partially as it is); we must allow them to shine within us and cast out the darkness (deception, manmade ideas) which we have called light (truth, wisdom from God). This will seem very much like allowing our way of thinking and understanding to be cast away and replaced as the spirit reveals to us God’s heart and will. This is repentance. Being diligent in this by God’s grace will bring change, freedom and joy.
“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15 KJV)
- Romans 8:6
- Romans 7:4-6, Galatians 2:19
- Galatians 3:19-25, Romans 3:20; 5:13,20; 7:4-7; 8:3, 1 Corinthians 15:56.
- Romans 4:15, Romans 8:1-3, 1 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 9:26, 1 John 3:5-9
- Romans 8:2
- Luke 4:18
- Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 7:6; John 4:23-24