Question & Answer Forum: Power & Fear of Death

In what sense does the devil have “the power of death?” (Heb 2:14-15).

The Lord said, “I kill, and I make alive” (Deut 32:39). Jesus also spoke of God being able to “destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28). Therefore, final authority over death is in God’s hands. When Job’s children died by the actions of the devil (Job 1:18,19), those actions were only granted by divine permission (Job 1:12). However, the devil does have “the power of death.” Through the devil’s subtle influence in the Garden of Eden, “sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Rom 5:12). The further consequence was that “death spread to all men” (ESV). We all die. It is in this sense that the devil, even now, has power in the realm of death. But something else happened in the Garden. Dominion over the earth, originally given to man (Gen 1:26), was forfeited to Satan. He said to the Lord Jesus in Luke 4:6 that the authority of the kingdoms of the world had been “delivered unto me.” Jesus did not dispute his claim. Later, the Lord Jesus referred to Satan as the “prince” or “ruler” of this world three times (John 12:31;14:30;16:11). The devil rules over this earth and his kingdom is one of darkness and death (Col 1:13).

David Petterson

In what sense did the Lord Jesus “destroy him that has the power of death?”

The word for “destroy” here does not indicate total annihilation, but means “to disarm” or “to make of no effect.” The text tells us that Christ accomplished this “through death” (i.e., His own death). In order to die, He must first take on flesh and blood. His incarnation made His death a possibility. His incarnation also made the restoration of man’s dominion a possibility. It was promised in Genesis 3:15 that the seed of the woman (thus, one of flesh and blood) would come and bruise (or “crush”) Satan’s head. This is indeed what the Lord Jesus accomplished when He died upon the cross (John.12:31). Jesus alluded to this defeat in His parable in Luke 11:21,22. He invaded Satan’s fortress, overtook him, disarmed him, and divided his spoils. Satan’s kingdom of darkness and death has been defeated, and man’s dominion over the earth has been restored. Yet, this has not been fully realized. “But now we see not yet all things put under Him (Heb 2:8).” But when Christ returns in all His power and glory, He will set up His kingdom of light and life, and reign as perfect Man. Throughout His entire earthly reign, He will demonstrate His power over Satan by having him bound and cast into the abyss, where his ability to influence this world will cease (Rev 20:1-3).

David Petterson

In what sense has the “fear of death” been dealt with by the death of Christ?

Although not stated here in the text, Christ’s resurrection is clearly implied. By Christ’s death, and subsequent resurrection, He made the devil’s weapon (“the fear of death”) lose its power over the believer. His weapon is still effective against the unbeliever, but not against those who have Christ. Before Christ came, the fear of death was even upon the righteous. Old Testament saints embraced the resurrection faith (Job 19:25,26), but Christ’s resurrection “brought life and immortality to light” (2Tim 1:10) and gave that faith a firmer standing. The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus enable us to say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1Cor 15:55).

David Petterson