And the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:18, ESV)
Jesus introduces Himself to John in Revelation with these words: “I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Let’s explore the meaning of these key terms: “keys,” “Death,” and “Hades.”
Understanding the symbolism in this verse is crucial. The text portrays Death and Hades as a walled city with gates, locks, and keys. While our modern cities lack walls, the analogy still holds: consider it akin to a prison with doors, keys, and guards.
With this image in mind, the meanings of Death and Hades become clearer. Hades, a term borrowed from Greek, signifies the place of the dead, depicted as a prison. When people die, their spirits reside in Hades. Conversely, Death acts as the power that sends souls to Hades. The Book of Revelation often pairs Death and Hades as malevolent entities (Rev. 6:8, 20:14). Their prisoners? People separated from God.
Two crucial points require attention. First, Hades, the realm of the dead, differs from Gehenna, a place of eternal torment (Mark 9:47). Second, Hades houses both the spiritually and physically dead. When Adam sinned, his spirit died and entered Hades (Hebrew Sheol)—he began dwelling in death. His physical death later sent his body there as well.
Keys symbolize authority. A prison guard with keys can open or close doors(Rev. 3:7). Likewise, Jesus holds the keys to Death and Hades, granting Him the power to free souls or imprison them. He now exercises control over the realms that once imprisoned Him in death (Acts 2:27).He now brings people to life from spiritual death through the Gospel(John 5:25) and will also call them from their physical graves at the resurrection.
Remarkably, Jesus extends this authority to His Church (Matt. 16:18). When we preach the Gospel and people believe, we unlock the gates of Hades to free a soul. We possess the authority to save people from both spiritual and physical death. The mandate from Jesus to raise the dead further confirms that we hold these keys.
Reflect on the meanings of “keys,” “Death,” and “Hades” as outlined above.
Apply the Word
Visualize holding the keys of Death and Hades in your hands. Use them to shut doors of darkness in your health, family, ministry, finances, neighborhood, and more. Open the gates for sinners to find Christ and escape the prison of Hades. You possess the power to open and closer, to bind and lose.
Offer gratitude to the Lord for the extraordinary privilege of holding the keys to life and death.
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