Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Introduction: Satan had the power of death in that he originated it. Jesus, in His death, destroyed the Devil and rendered him impotent (v.14). Our text presents a second result of Jesus’ death. He died not only to destroy, but also to deliver…
Heb. 2:15 “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
Men, by nature, have a slavish fear of death. We dread its mystery; there is a nagging fear of meeting God on the other side. We dread death’s loneliness; we all have to leave one at a time. We dread its devastation. Death rips out the inhabitant of the body and flings it into another world. It leaves, in the place of a living soul, a lifeless corpse.
To avoid thinking of death, men drown their thoughts in pleasure, debauchery, and work. The subject is avoided at all cost, as if ignoring it will make it go away. Sigismund the emperor, approaching death, commanded his servants not to name death in his hearing.
Rochefoucault, a priest of atheism, taught his followers to deal with death by not thinking about it. He said let’s “avert our eyes and fix them on some other object.” This is an “ostrich mentality.” “Stick your head in the sand and maybe death will go away.” But it doesn’t go away! The haunting sensations remain.
Damocles the Parasite envied the riches of Dionysius, saying there must not be a happier man in the world than he. Dionysius decided to offer a taste of his happiness to Damocles. He set Damocles in a chair of state, furnished the table with all delicacies, and surrounded him with singing men and women, and all kinds of attendants. Then, to show the danger under which all monarchs live, Dionysius had a sharp sword hung by a slender horsehair over the head of Damocles. Seeing the sword, Damocles took no pleasure in the paradise, and begged Dionysius to take him out of this “happiness.”
You, too, are a Damocles. You may have the world at will, and possess all, but the sword of death always hangs over your head. Its inevitability is omnipresent and quails the courage of even the most gallant. Death is the dragon’s yell with which “he frights the echoes till they dare not reply” (Spurgeon).
A slavish fear of death is, by nature, the lot of men, but we are not forced to remain in this mental bondage forever. For God’s children, death has been rendered powerless. Victory over the fear of death is available to every believer in Jesus. Only unbelief can cause one to remain in slavish fear to death. Have faith, beloved, a Hero came to us and dealt death a deathblow.
Heb. 2:16 “For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels: but He took on Him the seed of Abraham.”
Jesus, God of very God, passed by the nature of angels, and became a man. To fulfill the promises, He was born of the Jewish race, taking the seed of Abraham. Jesus became one of us.
On the centennial of Robert Stephenson’s birth, a large parade was held at Newcastle. A vast procession of banners gave honor to the distinguished engineer. The favorite banner of all was borne by a group of peasants. It was quite small, and of very ordinary appearance, but it bore the words, “He was one of us.” The inhabitants of the small village in which Stephenson was born had come to honor their favorite son.
If there were a parade in honor of Jesus, the angels could outshine the saints, and provide better than we could. However, we alone could carry the banner, “He was one of us.”
Jesus could have taken the radiant robes and glittering garments of angels. Silver sandals would have been offered to Him in abundance. Gabriel would have gladly offered his wings, Michael his crown and sword.
Why did Jesus forego the glorious nature of angels? Because He could not die in their nature, and death is what He had to accomplish (v. 14). He took upon Himself our nature that He might take upon Himself our death.
There was no other way for Jesus to display the defanging of death than by going into it, and then coming back out of it. His resurrection proved that the seal of death could be broken, and had been broken. By walking upon Earth again for forty days, Jesus felled death to the ground. His every step crushed it into even fine powder.
Believer, do not be afraid of dying. We should dread death no more than we dread sleep. Do not fear its mystery, God who waits on the other side is our Friend. Do not fear its loneliness, at the last you will sense Another at your side. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me” (PS 23:4). Do not fear its devastation, death is the period of sin and suffering.
To those who believe, Death is no longer a king of terror. It is as harmless as a worker bee after it loses its stinger. The worker bee has a terrible stinger. It is straight, with barbs on it. When it attacks a victim, twenty-two muscles drive the stinger deep into the flesh and pump poison into the wound, causing pain and swelling. The barbs in the stinger cause it to lodge in the victim, and once the stinging is done, the stinger is left behind. If you see that stinger less bee, it will still scare you. You have no way of knowing its stinger is gone. However, it is harmless, and will be dead within hours.
Death is the same way. It may look as ominous as ever, but death is dying. In striking Jesus, it lost its sting. Physical death has not been abolished. It is still the lot of men, but it has lost its sting.
Paul the Apostle knew this and taunted death. “O death, where is thy sting?” (I Cor. 15:55). The sting of death is sin (v.56), but Jesus absorbed that sting into Himself. He did bear “our sins in His own body on the tree” (I P 2:24). The sting of death is sin, and Jesus took the sting away.
The stinger was barbed and poisonous, but Jesus did not turn away from it. The very reason He took our nature was to take our place in this matter of death. He endured the kind of death we deserve. His was a death under a curse, involving the wrath of God due to an awful rebellion. His was a death bearing a load of sin, and involving the miseries of an eternity without God.
For believers there is no flame of Hell, for Christ our Passover lamb was roasted in that fire at Calvary. The evil one hates the truth. He wants it to be an unknown fact. Satan desires everlasting doom for men. He wants men to share his woe. He wants companions in anguish. And in times of death, he seems to cackle as if all men will eventually be his.
At the graveside, I have looked down into death’s dungeon and have seen its bleak walls. Its door is thick and upon it rests a monstrous stone. Breaking forth from it looks impossible. The evil one seems to taunt from the abyss.
But then I remember that One did break death’s bonds, and wants to share His victory with me. Jesus endured our death, and invites us to enjoy His life. His victory provides us proof that death does not have the last word.
Thinking of Him causes my courage to rise, and I can look even into death’s dungeon with confidence. And when I look real close, I notice that death’s stinger is gone. It is impotent. It still flits about and looks fierce, but it has not stinger.
Death is powerless that it will not even get to keep my lifeless corpse. Earth shall swallow my body, but someday it will burst forth as Jonah from the whale’s belly, or better yet, as Jesus from the tomb. Death’s dungeon will be smashed, its walls broken. Its door shall be opened and its stone rolled away. The ground will yield its prey, and worm shall give back the flesh whereon it fed.
Our victory is total and absolute. Death has lost its sting because God bypassed the nature of angels and became one of us. He took my nature, and died my death, that someday I might take his nature, and live His life.