The Keys of Death and Hades

David Bast

Read: Revelation 1:17b-20

I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (v. 18)

The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates the moment when Christ triumphed over the powers of hell as the anastasis, which literally means “resurrection.” The idea is that sometime during the period between his death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday, Jesus went to hell—or at least to Hades, the realm of the dead—to release the souls of the Old Testament saints who had been imprisoned there. This is why we still say, “he descended into hell” in the Apostles’ Creed. A beautiful depiction of the anastasis, in a 14th-century fresco on the wall of the Chora Church in Istanbul, shows Jesus standing on the broken doors of Hades, with a hand out to Adam on one side, and Eve on the other. Beneath his feet are bits of a broken lock and a set of keys.

Jesus didn’t just kick in the doors of Hades when he rose; he took the keys with him! Death no longer holds sway over us. It’s not the final word of our lives. The “king of terrors” has been ejected from his throne.

What’s more, Jesus has entrusted “the keys of the kingdom” to us (Matt. 16:19). The keys are the gospel message itself: that those who turn to Jesus in repentance and faith will be saved, and those who reject him will be lost. It’s a sobering responsibility, those keys. —David Bast

As you pray, pray for someone you know who needs the door of faith to open.