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Hebrews 2:15

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And deliver them - Not all of them “in fact,” though the way is open for all. This deliverance relates:

(1) to the dread of death. He came to free them from that.

(2) from death itself - that is, ultimately to bring them to a world where death shall be unknown. The dread of death may be removed by the work of Christ, and they who had been subject to constant alarms on account of it may be brought to look on it with calmness and peace; and ultimately they will be brought to a world where it will be wholly unknown. The dread of death is taken away, or they are delivered from that, because:

(a)the cause of that dread - to wit, sin, is removed; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.

(b)Because they are enabled to look to the world beyond with triumphant joy.

Death conducts them to heaven. A Christian has nothing to fear in death; nothing beyond the grave. In no part of the universe has he any thing to dread, for God is his friend, and he will be his Protector everywhere. On the dying bed; in the grave; on the way up to the judgment; at the solemn tribunal; and in the eternal world, he is under the eye and the protection of his Saviour - and of what should he be afraid?

Who through fear of death - From the dread of dying - that is, whenever they think of it, and they think of it “so often” as to make them slaves of that fear. This obviously means the natural dread of dying, and not particularly the fear of punishment beyond. It is that indeed which often gives its principal terror to the dread of death, but still the apostle refers here evidently to natural death - as an object which people fear. All men have, by nature, this dread of dying - and perhaps some of the inferior creation have it also. It is certain that it exists in the heart of every man, and that God has implanted it there for some wise purpose. There is the dread:

(1)of the dying pang, or pain.

(2)Of the darkness and gloom of mind that attends it.

(3)of the unknown world beyond - the “evil that we know not of.”

(4)of the chilliness, and loneliness, and darkness of the grave.

(5)of the solemn trial at the bar of God.

(6)of the condemnation which awaits the guilty - the apprehension of future wo. There is no other evil that we fear so much as we do death - and there is nothing more clear than that God intended that we should have a dread of dying.

The reasons why he designed this are equally clear:

(1)One may have been to lead people to prepare for it - which otherwise they would neglect.

(2)another, to “deter them from committing self-murder” - where nothing else would deter them.

Facts have shown that it was necessary that there should be some strong principle in the human bosom to prevent this crime - and even the dread of death does not always do it. So sick do people become of the life that God gave them; so weary of the world; so overwhelmed with calamity; so oppressed with disappointment and cares, that they lay violent hands on themselves, and rush unbidden into the awful presence of their Creator. This would occur more frequently by far than it now does, if it were not for the salutary fear of death which God has implanted in every bosom. The feelings of the human heart; on this subject were never more accurately or graphically drawn than in the celebrated Soliloquy of Hamlet:

- To die; - to sleep -

No more; - and by a sleep, to say we end.

The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks.

That flesh is heir to, - ‹tis a consummation.

Devoutly to be wished. To die - to sleep -

To sleep: - perchance to dream; - ay, there‘s the rub;

For in that deep of death what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: - there‘s the respect.

That makes calamity of so long a life:

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor‘s wrong, the proud man‘s contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law‘s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns.

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make.

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life;

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country from whose bourne.

No traveler returns, puzzles the will;

And makes us rather bear those ills we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution.

Is sicklied o‘er with the pale cast of thought;

And enterprises of great pith and moment.

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action.

God planned that man should be deterred from rushing uncalled into His awful presence, by this salutary dread of death - and his implanting this feeling in the human heart is one of the most striking and conclusive proofs of a moral government over the world. This instinctive dread of death can be overcome only by religion - and then man does not need it to reconcile him to life. He becomes submissive to trials. He is willing to bear all that is laid on him. He resigns himself to the dispensations of Providence, and feels that life, even in affliction, is the gift of God, and is a valuable endowment. He now dreads “self-murder” as a crime of deep dye, and religion restrains him and keeps him by a more mild and salutary restraint than the dread of death. The man who has true religion is willing to live or to die; he feels that life is the gift of God, and that he will take it away in the best time and manner; and feeling this, he is willing to leave all in his hands. We may remark:

(1) How much do we owe to religion! It is the only thing that will effectually take away the dread of death, and yet secure this point - to make man willing to live in all the circumstances where God may place him. It is possible that philosophy or stoicism may remove to a great extent the dread of death - but then it will be likely to make man willing to take his life if he is placed in trying circumstances. Such an effect it had on Cato in Utica; and such an effect it had on Hume, who maintained that suicide was lawful, and that to turn a current of blood from its accustomed channel was of no more consequence than to change the course of any other fluid!

(2) in what a sad condition is the sinner! There are thousands who never think of death with composure, and who all their life long are subject to bondage through the fear of it. They never think of it if they can avoid it; and when it is forced upon them, it fills them with alarm. They attempt to drive the thought away. They travel; they plunge into business; they occupy the mind with trifles; they drown their fears in the intoxicating bowl: but all this tends only to make death more terrific and awful when the reality comes. If man were wise, he would seek an interest in that religion which, if it did nothing else, would deliver him from the dread of death; and the influence of the gospel in this respect, if it exerted no other, is worth to a man all the sacrifices and self-denials which it would ever require.

All their life-time subject to bondage - Slaves of fear; in a depressed and miserable condition, like slaves under a master. They have no freedom; no comfort; no peace. From this miserable state Christ comes to deliver man. Religion enables him to look calmly on death and the judgment, and to feel that all will be well.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The angels fell, and remained without hope or help. Christ never designed to be the Saviour of the fallen angels, therefore he did not take their nature; and the nature of angels could not be an atoning sacrifice for the sin of man. Here is a price paid, enough for all, and suitable to all, for it was in our nature. Here the wonderful love of God appeared, that, when Christ knew what he must suffer in our nature, and how he must die in it, yet he readily took it upon him. And this atonement made way for his people's deliverance from Satan's bondage, and for the pardon of their sins through faith. Let those who dread death, and strive to get the better of their terrors, no longer attempt to outbrave or to stifle them, no longer grow careless or wicked through despair. Let them not expect help from the world, or human devices; but let them seek pardon, peace, grace, and a lively hope of heaven, by faith in Him who died and rose again, that thus they may rise above the fear of death. The remembrance of his own sorrows and temptations, makes Christ mindful of the trials of his people, and ready to help them. He is ready and willing to succour those who are tempted, and seek him. He became man, and was tempted, that he might be every way qualified to succour his people, seeing that he had passed through the same temptations himself, but continued perfectly free from sin. Then let not the afflicted and tempted despond, or give place to Satan, as if temptations made it wrong for them to come to the Lord in prayer. Not soul ever perished under temptation, that cried unto the Lord from real alarm at its danger, with faith and expectation of relief. This is our duty upon our first being surprised by temptations, and would stop their progress, which is our wisdom.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And deliver them who through fear of death - It is very likely that the apostle has the Gentiles here principally in view. As they had no revelation, and no certainty of immortality, they were continually in bondage to the fear of death. They preferred life in any state, with the most grievous evils, to death, because they had no hope beyond the grave. But it is also true that all men naturally fear death; even those that have the fullest persuasion and certainty of a future state dread it: genuine Christians, who know that, if the earthly house of their tabernacle were dissolved, they have a house not made with hands, a building framed of God, eternal in the heavens, only they fear it not. In the assurance they have of God's love, the fear of death is removed; and by the purification of their hearts through faith, the sting of death is extracted. The people who know not God are in continual torment through the fear of death, and they fear death because they fear something beyond death. They are conscious to themselves that they are wicked, and they are afraid of God, and terrified at the thought of eternity. By these fears thousands of sinful, miserable creatures are prevented from hurrying themselves into the unknown world. This is finely expressed by the poet: -

"To die, - to sleep, -

No more: - and, by a sleep, to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, - 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, - to sleep, -

To sleep! - perchance to dream; - ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: - There's the respect

That makes calamity of so long life:

For who could bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear

To grunt and sweat under a weary life;

But that the dread of something after death, -

The undiscovered country from whose bourn

No traveler returns, - puzzles the will;

And makes us rather bear those ills we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought;

And enterprises of great pith and moment,

With this regard, their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action."

I give this long quotation from a poet who was well acquainted with all the workings of the human heart; and one who could not have described scenes of distress and anguish of mind so well, had he not passed through them.

Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 320

Jesus changed the mother's grief to joy when He gave back her son; yet the youth was but called forth to this earthly life, to endure its sorrows, its toils, and its perils, and to pass again under the power of death. But Jesus comforts our sorrow for the dead with a message of infinite hope: “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, ... and have the keys of hell and of death.” “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.” Revelation 1:18; Hebrews 2:14, 15. DA 320.1

Satan cannot hold the dead in his grasp when the Son of God bids them live. He cannot hold in spiritual death one soul who in faith receives Christ's word of power. God is saying to all who are dead in sin, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead.” Ephesians 5:14. That word is eternal life. As the word of God which bade the first man live, still gives us life; as Christ's word, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise,” gave life to the youth of Nain, so that word, “Arise from the dead,” is life to the soul that receives it. God “hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.” Colossians 1:13. It is all offered us in His word. If we receive the word, we have the deliverance. DA 320.2

And “if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Romans 8:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. This is the word of comfort wherewith He bids us comfort one another. DA 320.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 299

In this degenerate age, Satan holds control over those who depart from the right and venture upon his ground. He exercises his power upon such in an alarming manner. I was directed to these words: “Intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” Some, I was shown, gratify their curiosity and tamper with the devil. They have no real faith in spiritualism and would start back with horror at the idea of being mediums. Yet they venture and place themselves in a position where Satan can exercise his power upon them. Such do not mean to enter deep into this work, but they know not what they are doing. They are venturing on the devil's ground and are tempting him to control them. This powerful destroyer considers them his lawful prey and exercises his power upon them, and that against their will. When they wish to control themselves they cannot. They yielded their minds to Satan, and he will not release his claims, but holds them captive. No power can deliver the ensnared soul but the power of God in answer to the earnest prayers of His faithful followers. 1T 299.1

The only safety now is to search for the truth as revealed in the word of God, as for hid treasure. The subjects of the Sabbath, the nature of man, and the testimony of Jesus are the great and important truths to be understood; these will prove as an anchor to hold God's people in these perilous times. But the mass of mankind despise the truths of God's word and prefer fables. 2 Thessalonians 2:10, 11: “Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” 1T 300.1

The most licentious and corrupt are highly flattered by these Satanic spirits, which they believe to be the spirits of their dead friends, and they are vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds. Colossians 2:19: “And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God,” they deny Him who ministers strength to the body, that every member may increase with the increase of God. 1T 300.2

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