"This first mention in Hebrews of Christ's death looking toward His priesthood, shows it as compassing two great things: (a) the complete overthrow of the one having the power of death, that is, the devil: the "prince of this world" and "god of this age"; (b) Christ's taking hold, according to Divine purpose and promise, not of angels, but of the seed of Abraham, who is named of God "the father of all them that believe." (Thus Christ is Priest-not of the human race, but of "them that are of faith" (Gal. 3:7; Rom. 4:11).)
Verse 14: Since then the children are sharers in blood and flesh.
*The words "since then," which begin vs. 14, open out to us one side of the meaning of the words, "all of one." For we read: Since then the children (the "sons He is bringing unto glory") are sharers in blood and flesh, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same. The nature He takes is absolutely human, though unconnected with Adam the First. For, as we have noted, He was the "Seed of the woman," and that by God's direct power! Let this humanity of our blessed Lord captivate us wholly. We can enter no possible human condition or circumstance with which He is not immediately and perfectly familiar!
Then, second, our resurrection-oneness with Christ, the teaching of which permeates Paul's epistles, is included in these words "all-of-one"! "If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God ... For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:1, 3). This marvelous oneness is asserted over and over, though never explained: for how can such a marvel be addressed to anything but to simple faith?
So then both in the fact that He is a man "partaker of blood and flesh in like manner" with us; and also that He died, and we died with Him; He was raised, and we were raised with Him, the great words, "ALL OF ONE" are ours.
Out of the two facts comes the revelation of the mystery of the Body of Christ: first, our Lord's actual humanity; and second, our sharing His Risen life. His taking part in blood and flesh and that in like manner with us, did not enable Him to greet us as "brethren"; but when He was raised from the dead, "The last Adam became a life-giving spirit"! (1 Cor. 15:45). Then He could and did, greet them as "brethren" (but not before resurrection). Believers have "died with Christ," and are no longer in that first Adam in which they were born. What a salvation!
The "children" here are the children of God, given to Christ (vs. 10; see John 17:9-10). But we must examine closely what is said. There is no loose statement in Scripture. Therefore sharers in blood and flesh (the Greek order) should be translated exactly that way. For God said, "As to the life of all flesh, the blood thereof is all one with the life thereof" (Lev. 17:14). Marvel of marvels, of both Divine mercy and Divine wisdom! Our Lord was to be the "Seed of the woman" that should "bruise the serpent's head." The Seed of the woman, whom Satan first deceived and who led her husband into sin!--ah, how God's grace triumphs! Christ was given as "her Seed"--to bruise Satan's head! Here the preparation for that "bruising" (by means of death upon the Cross) is shown us. The first step of infinite condescension is, He took part in blood and flesh. God did not give our Lord, as He did Adam, a body complete, full-grown. In the miracle of His infinite mercy, the Holy Ghost came upon Mary and Christ's word was fulfilled (Ps. 40:6; Heb. 10:5), "A body Thou hast prepared for Me." This was uttered through David over a thousand years before Christ's day by the Spirit of God: "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10). God willed to "prepare a body" for His Son after the same manner as that in which our bodies are prepared, except that God by the Holy Spirit, and not a human father, communicated the life to the ovum in the womb of the virgin. Thus our Lord partook of blood and flesh ... in like manner as we: how marvelous!
*This first step of infinite condescension, He took part in blood and flesh, mystifies those who do not know their lost state, their guilt, their helplessness. The second step of equally gracious condescension is, He laid down this blood-and-flesh life: "He bare our sins in His own body on the tree." For, "without shedding of blood there is no remission." In dying, He poured out His blood, and left behind the blood-and-flesh sphere. But, "God raised Him up"--yet not back into "blood and flesh" existence. He had "flesh and bones," indeed, (Lk. 24:39). But He was raised to "newness of life" "by the glory of the Father." Only living faith follows Him there!--faith given by God, and by the Holy Spirit.
Verse 14: ... that through death He might bring to nought (Gr.: _katargeo) him that had the power of death,... * Two words must be looked at here: _kratos--which means might; and _exousia, which includes the right to use might or power.
*Darkness is essentially the result of sin--connected therewith constantly by God (Gen. 1:2; 1 Sam. 2:9; Prov. 4:19; 20:20; Jer. 13:16; Matt. 8:12; 2 Peter 2:4, 17--contrast here 1 Peter 2:9). Darkness has a right (_exousia), therefore, over sinners: so that in Col. 1:12-13, the saints are seen to be by the Father "made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the Saints in light, having been delivered out of the power (_exousia, right) of darkness, and translated into the Kingdom of the Son of His love."
*NOW Satan had no right but he did seize the Power (_kratos) of death--a third of the heavenly beings--"stars of Heaven" the dragon is seen to drag down With him (Rev. 12:3-4). And after Adam sinned Satan seized the might (_kratos) of death, and he became the acknowledged Prince--yea and the god of those sinners over whom darkness now had the right (_exousia).
*The fact that Satan is to be bound in Hades the thousand years of the Millennium shows that he had no right (_exousia) over the human race. For though the race is not converted during the Millennium but rushes back to Satan's banner the moment he is "released for a little season," at the end of the thousand years (Rev. 20:7-10), it is evident that living in sin, darkness having the right over them, they are helpless and willing slaves of Satan, the arch-leader of sin's hosts--as in Heaven, so on earth!
*Now Satan having seized might (_kratos) over the human race concerning whom darkness has right--it is most fitting indeed that in Hebrews the very first recorded result of our blessed Lord's death is, that that death brought to nought him that was exercising on earth the might (_kratos) of death!
*For in Hebrews believers are constantly exhorted to hold fast their "confidence," their "boldness," toward God. Yea, to "draw near, by the blood of Jesus," to come, (by the Spirit, certainly) where their Great Priest, their "Forerunner" has gone--through the veil, a new and living way which He dedicated for us (Heb. 10:19, ff). Believers are to become worshipers, in Hebrews, and to press on to full growth.
*So Satan's utter overthrow is the first result of Christ's death shown in Hebrews! For the saints are to do business in Heaven--not here--here Satan reigns!
Verses 14, 15: ... that through death He might bring to nought (Gr.: _katargeo) him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Several questions confront us here. First, How, or on what ground, did the devil have the power of death? and what means this expression? Second, How did our Lord through His death nullify, remove, put-out-of-business, bring to nought the devil? (These are some of the meanings of the word _katargeo.) Third, What is the "bondage" to which the fear of death subjects people, and how does Christ deliver them?
*Might of death: Gr., _Kratos, "might"; consistently translated thus of God's might: Eph. 1:19, Col. 1:11; and of Christ's might in Eph, 6:10. Note the same word in the doxologies of 1 Tim. 6:16, 1 Peter 4:11, 5:11; Jude 25; Rev. 1:6, 5:13.
Questions I and III: First, it is to be remembered that the devil was not an angel, but the "anointed cherub that covered" (God's throne, evidently), of the highest order of beings in Heaven. He "walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire" (Ezek. 28:14). He was regarded by Michael, the archangel as a "dignity" compared to himself! (Jude 8, 9). Upon his sin (as revealed to us in Ezek. 28 under the type of the king of Tyre), he was ejected from Heaven: "I have cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God" (Ezek. 28:16). Our Lord described this ejecting of Satan in the words: "I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from Heaven" (Lk. 10:18). He became the deceiver who would displace God, and, inasmuch as the first Adam was to be tested, was permitted to visit the earthly Eden.
*Being himself a creature, Satan had no right over other creatures, our first parents, or the race. We see that in Rev. 12:9b, when he is finally ejected from Heaven and is cast down to earth, one third of the angels fall with him. it is instructive to mark his two names and the three great characters in which he is shown, in Rev. 12:9: As the "great dragon," he is contrasted with his former estate: when God said to him, "Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and Perfect in beauty" (Ezek. 28:12). As "the old serpent" he is seen using his marvelous wisdom to destroy. As "the devil" (_diabolos, lit., the underflinger, slanderer), he is the accuser. As Satan, he is the direct enemy or adversary of God and His People. (See 1 Chron. 21:1; Job 1 and 2.) And lastly, he is the deceiver of the whole habitable earth: he deceives as to man's conceits of his own righteousness; of his creature ability (for man has none); as to all dreams of human greatness and progress without God; and especially in his "blinding the minds of the unbelieving" as to their doom (2 Cor. 4:4).
His chief role, so far as the saints of God are concerned, is that of the accuser of the saints before God. If the angels, who are below the cherubim, are called "mighty," how much greater was the "might" of this anointed one of the cherubim when, his heart "lifted up in pride," and having sinned, he turned against God in that terrible endless pride which his fall brought in! That "might," all of it, he now turns against God and His creatures; and God permits him to use this fearful might against those who have chosen sin and darkness.
He did not have a right (Gr. _exousia, authority), we repeat, over unfallen Adam. He secured that right (_exousia) over fallen man, who had now turned against God. And he uses might (_kratos) after man's fall. This "might" or "power" of death, then, of the devil, is a Divinely permitted exercise of power. (No creature has independent Power--even to obey God! God's holy angels, indeed, are called "the elect angels"--God having in inscrutable sovereignty protected their state of obedience.) A slave of sin himself, like Spartacus, the Roman slave, he became the leader of slaves, which now included the human race. For of sin, our Lord Jesus said, "Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant (Gr., _doulos) of sin"; as again Paul, "Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his bondservants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Rom. 6:16).
Therefore Satan's hold upon man, however unjust, could be broken only by removing that sin which held man as a slave in "bondage." Let us give all our soul's attention then, to the judgment on the Cross.
With the righteous judgment of sin, and the bearing of it, at the Cross, Satan had nothing to do. The transaction was altogether between God as the judge, and Christ, the Lamb of God, (1) bearing our sins, which were transferred to Him; and (2) made to be sin on our behalf, "that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).
As regards Satan, our blessed Lord said, "Now is the judgment of this world ("judgment" referring to His own death): now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth (at Calvary) will draw all men unto Myself" (the future kingdom triumph). There is coming a judgment day at the Great White Throne of Revelation 20:11-15. The preceding verse (20:10) sees the devil cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. He has no part in this Great White Throne judgment.
Nor has he any part in the judgment day of Calvary! There God, the first Person of the Trinity, laid on Christ, Whom He names as Son, God, Lord, in Hebrews 1, our actual sins, as it is written: "Jehovah hath made to light (Heb., R.V. margin) on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6); and, "Who His own self bare our sins in His body upon the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24).
But sins, having been transferred to Him, must be judged according to the holy being of God, as really as the sins of the wicked will be judged at the last judgment day of Revelation 20.
Therefore Christ on the Cross was forsaken of God. Oh, behold this! Thank God, He, as innocent, still had His faith, for He cried, "My God!" But the forsaking was real and absolute, for there was no relieving answer to His cry: "Jesus therefore ... said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit" (John 19:30). He bore our sins in His body, not His spirit, and His spirit was free--innocent!
This yielding up His spirit was evidently after or upon His death in the flesh, as a comparison of the four Gospels will reveal: for note: (a) "the ninth hour" had come; (b) "the veil of the temple was rent in the midst," signifying that the article of death was past for Christ. Those words, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit," are not said while He is under the curse for sin. For John 19:30 reads, "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit," while Luke adds, "Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit: and having said this, He gave up the ghost." The spirit of the Lord Jesus was of course infinitely innocent, for He was the Son of God, though He had just borne our fearful judgment!
The judgment, then, of sins on Calvary was as absolute as the judgment of the Great White Throne will be; because it is God Who laid our sins upon Christ. It is God Who forsook Him, our Substitute, instead of us. It is God Who declares, "Our old man Was crucified with Him"--that He was, we repeat, "made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Marvelous--but written! The result of this judgment was, of course, overwhelming disaster for Satan and his hosts, as announced in Hebrews 2:14: He also Himself in like manner partook of blood and flesh, that through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.
Question II: By what means and manner did Christ bring to nought ... the devil, who, wrongly indeed, but actually, was exercising the might of death, and making all subject to bondage through fear of death?
Let us first notice several things by which our Lord Jesus Christ did not bring Satan to nought and deliver men. It was not by the spiritual beauty and moral excellence, infinite as that was, of our Lord's life on earth, that He brought Satan to nought. Modernist preachers, befooled by the very devil whose existence they deny or ignore, would preach the "beautiful life of Jesus," to be "imitated": would preach the "standards, the ethics of Jesus," even the "unselfishness of Jesus," saying that these are all men need! If men will consider the question, "What would Jesus do?" and do it, they say, "everything will be all right." Poor dupes, poor slaves, yea, beguiled slaves beguiling other slaves to their doom!
Our Lord did not annul or bring to nought the devil, in the wilderness, by refusing to yield to his temptations. Certainly our Lord by His wilderness victory "bound the strong man," and then went about "spoiling his house," "casting out demons," "healing all that were oppressed of the devil" (Acts 10:38). But after the wilderness temptation we read: "When the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from Him until a season" (Lk. 4:13)--literally, "until a fitting opportunity." Satan, far from being "brought to nought" then, even wrought through the Lord's own, as in Peter, when the Lord rebuked him (in Matt. 16:23) with "Get thee behind Me, Satan!" and on until, as we have noted, Jesus came forth from the Garden and said to the priests and soldiers led by Judas, "This is your hour, and the power (authority, _exousia) of darkness."
No, not by His life, not by His example, not by His teachings, not by His miracles, did Christ bring the devil to nought. But, as the Word says, He partook ... of blood and flesh, that THROUGH DEATH He might bring to nought him that had the might of death, that is, the devil.
*An example of Satan's having the might of death, and not the right or authority, is seen in the case of Job. Only when God permitted was Satan able to work: "And Jehovah said unto Satan, Behold he is in thy hand; only spare his life." (Compare 2 Sam. 24:1, and 1 Chron. 21:1. Here we see God's permissive use of Satan, as in Job's case--Job 1 and 2.) Again, "Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). He has the devouring might, but only when permitted--thank God! The tense of the verb in Heb, 2:14 is in the past: "had the might of death." Believers are not under this might or power! But as to those out of Christ, "The whole world lieth in the evil one."
This glorious truth, that through death Christ brought to nought the devil, is emphasized throughout Paul's epistles. In Romans we see Christ having become a propitiation "through faith in His blood" (3:25), bearing our sin, putting its guilt away; and we read, "We died to sin" (6:2); "Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin" (6:6); "For he that hath died is righteously-released from sin" (6:7); "We died with Christ" (6:8); "Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (6:11); "Ye also were made dead to the Law through the body of Christ" (7:4); "We have been discharged from the Law" (annulled--_katargeo: 7:6).
If this great word _katargeo, "brought to nought," is to be used concerning the bondage in which Satan held us, it must include both the removing of sin with its guilt and power, and the taking us out of that Adam in whom was involved our responsibility. "We must look intently upon this Christ on the Cross," as Luther used to say, "made to be sin on our behalf." During our Lord's earthly life He was "tempted in all points like as we are, sin apart." But at Calvary, by God's act, He was made to become sin, the thing itself, for us! Satan was deluded at that hour into jubilance! Christ's lips had testified that God had forsaken Him. He had lifted not a hand to defend Himself. He had committed Himself to "Him Who judgeth righteously." At last He said, "It is finished!" and "He bowed His head and gave up His spirit." Thus He "suffered for sins once ... being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit."
What now could Satan do? Of those he had held in bondage, the sin, the guilt, that liability to death under judgment which made the "bondage" possible, had all been borne by a Substitute; and He of God's appointing! Those who believed on Christ were free--as free as their Substitute! And Him God raised up from the dead, and received at His right hand--"crowned with glory and honor!" What right then had Satan over believing ones? None whatever! Let them be "subject to God," and believe, thus resisting the devil, and he will flee from them. Astounding witness to Satan's defeated condition!* (Note exact words of Jas. 4:7.)
*The Holy Spirit, our Lord told us, would convict the world of three things: sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8): Men know, as to the first, that it is a sin not to believe on Christ; second that Christ is righteous, because He has left the world and gone to the Father; third, that the prince of this world, Satan, has been judged. When men realize this, it is like the cry going over a battlefield, "Our commanding general has been killed!" This world is an armed camp against God. A Holy Ghost revival shatters the world's sense of security, takes away all their confidence. Their hearts are like water. God grant such revivals!
When our Lord rose from the dead, and was received up into glory, He went up as the Victor Who had brought the devil to nought! Nothing now but unbelief or disobedience, or ignorance of their liberty, can hold men in bondage to Satan. All his basis of accusation before God, all his power to terrorize believers on earth is nullified, for the judgment for believers was over at the Cross. Do you see that, O believer? Satan has no power, no rights over you. None! He may hinder you; he may oppose you--he did and does oppose all testimony in Christ's Name. But God has reckoned to you the full value of Christ's whole work; and neither guilt, nor bondage, nor fear belongs to you at all! You are in Christ, and are as Christ in God's reckoning! "The sting of death is sin," but Christ bore the sin, and put it away. "The power of sin is the law," but those in Christ died unto law that they might live unto God (Gal. 2:19). And you are in a Risen Christ, Who is all in all to you: "righteousness, sanctification, and redemption"! if, therefore, you are not as free from the devil's bondage of fear as Christ is, it is either from ignorance of Christ's work, or lack of reliance thereon!
All their lifetime subject to bondage, is a summary of the history of most people you know. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment" (Heb. 9:27). That double engagement lies ever before men out of Christ! Drown their convictions in pleasure, debauchery, infidelity, as they may, there is ever bondage to fear of death! Peculiarly is this bondage felt by those whose consciences have been awakened to the fearful character and consequences of human guilt, and to their own inability to change their moral state. By these we mean true souls, who may not yet have learned the full truth of the deliverance Christ accomplished at the Cross in their behalf.
*Through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. From the time you were born your mother was afraid you would die; the household kept in touch with doctors--"through fear of death;" funerals passed your house, often carrying loved ones, over whom you wept; the reports that came of whole communities smitten with disease filled with dread; the cemeteries you passed cried out, "You will soon be here!" The philosophers and the poets you read made your life "a brief passing moment,"--and then death. The human race is today SUBJECT TO BONDAGE. They may talk peace--but yonder comes the undertaker!
Now--to hear the astounding NEWS that death and judgment for the believer on Christ are PAST THINGS! that they have been borne by Another, for us; and that the believer is not coming into judgment but has passed out of death into life! also that God has raised His dear Son from the dead; and that He has passed as our Great High Priest through the heavens and is now seated at the right hand of God! and that our standing is perfect and glorious in Christ! that even if a believer should sin, he has "an Advocate--Jesus Christ the righteous"--I say, that the contemplation in faith of these glorious truths sets the heart singing in joy! And that "bondage" which arose "through fear of death" is gone forever! For the believer has died with Christ, and is raised with Him; and Christ has entered God's presence as the Forerunner of believers: where God's saints are, in their Standing, and shall be shortly in personal presence forever! So He delivered all those who through fear of death were all their life subject to bondage!