The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 14

The Keys of Hell

Revelation 1:17.   And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.  And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last.

     The first “Fear not” of the Bible occurs just before the first “I am” of the Bible.  “Fear not, Abraham: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1).  For mortal, sinful man to come into the presence of the living God is death, and this would have been John’s experience were he not “in the Spirit.”  The hand in which the seven stars were held was laid upon John and the double-edged sword from His mouth spoke peace instead of judgment.  John need not fear, for the One who spoke was not only his Creator (“the first and the last”) but also His Savior, who died for him and rose again.

Revelation 1:18.   I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death. 

     This is one of the mountain-peak verses of Scripture, and one of the most amazing of  the great claims of Christ.  Multitudes of religious philosophers as well as scientists have searched for the key to life and death, but Christ claims to have the key.  Further he claims to possess the keys to hell (Greek Hades).  Hades is the New Testament equivalent of the Hebrew sheol, both terms describing the abode of departed human spirits.

     The position of the scientific establishment, of course, is that neither Hades nor heaven has any real existence.  The popular lay view, on the other hand, is that both do exist but in some kind of different state of existence, completely outside the framework of our present physical universe.  The fact is, however, the Bible clearly teaches that both heaven and hell literally exist in the present cosmos and this teaching has not been refuted in any way by modern science.

     When the Lord Jesus died on the cross and His body was placed in the tomb, His spirit “descended first into the lower parts of the earth” (Ephesians 4:9).  These lower parts of the earth are also called “the deep” (literally “the abyss” from the Greek word abussos as in Romans 10:7), and are apparently the same as Hades.  But in fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 16:10, “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in [Hades], neither his flesh did see corruption” (Acts 2:31).

     Until Christ descended into Hades, it had housed all the souls and spirits of all people who had lived and died before that time.  Those who died in faith were “comforted” in one compartment of Hades; all others were separated from these by “a great gulf” and were “in torments” (see Luke 16:23-26).  Pre-Calvary believers were safe in God’s keeping, trusting His Word that someday the redemption price would be paid and they would be freed.  “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14, 15).

     Therefore, after He went and proclaimed His victory to the evil spirits still incarcerated in prison (see 1 Peter 3:18-20),  “When he ascended up on high, He led captivity captive. . . . He that descened is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:8-10). 

     All of this is implied in the great assertion by Christ that He now possessed the very keys to Hades and death.  “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him” (Romans 6:9).  “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

     Ever since, those who die in Christ are translated to “be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23) in heaven.  The unsaved dead remain in Hades, whence they will later be brought forth for eternal judgment (Revelation 20:13).  In the meantime, the great abyss in the heart of the earth continues to “enlarge herself” (Isaiah 5:14) with multitudes dying in their sins.

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