Revelation 1:18 – The Keys of Death and Hades

By Wayne Jackson

One of the thrilling oracles of the book of Revelation is Christ’s declaration that He is the Living One. He announced: “I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades” (v. 18). The allusion obviously is to His resurrection from the dead. That resurrection gave him the authority (keys) to ultimately open both death and Hades.

There are two crucial thoughts here:

  1. Death and Hades are not the same. Death claims the human body; Hades is the abode of the soul. By implication, therefore, a distinction between body and soul is made in this passage. Draw a circle around the conjunction “and,” and reflect in your margin: Different states/distinction between body and soul.
  2. Some suggest that Hades was emptied when Jesus ascended into heaven following His resurrection, and thus it is unoccupied today. Such a view is difficult to harmonize with this utterance (made decades after the Ascension), and with 20:13,14, where it is indicated that neither death nor Hades will be emptied until the Day of Judgment. Note then: Hades to be emptied at the Last Day.
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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.