Sermon Illustrations

"The Harrowing of Hell" -- "I have the keys to death and Hades"

An ancient Christian hymn found in the old hymn book "Odes of Solomon" (from the first one hundred years of the Christian church) has a climactic celebration of "The harrowing (robbing) of Hell." It gives us insight into the first century church's understanding of Jesus holding the keys to death and Hades.

I was not rejected although I was considered to be so,

And I did not perish although they thought it to be so.

Sheol saw me and was shattered,

And Death ejected me and many with me.

I have been vinegar and bitterness to it,

And I went down with it as far as the depth.

Then the feet and the head it released,

Because it was not able to endure my face.

And I made a congregation of living among the dead;

And I spoke with them of living lips;

In order that my word may not fail.

And those who have died ran towards me;

And they cried out and said, "Son of God, have pity on us.

And deal with us according to your kindness,

And bring us out of the chains of darkness.

And open for us the door

By which we may go forth to you,

For we perceive that our death does not approach you.

May we also be saved

Because you are the Savior."

Then I heard their voice

And placed my faith in their heart

And I placed my name upon their head,

Because they are free and they are mine.

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