In the first chapter of the book, John sees Jesus. Not baby Jesus in a manger or half-dead Jesus hanging on a cross. John sees a triumphant Jesus, dressed in shining white robes. This Jesus has something to say to his followers:
Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:17-18).
To these Christians who faced the very real possibility of dying for their faith, Jesus says, "Don't be scared. I've been there. And I'm back." Then he tells them something important: he holds the keys of death and Hades.
Maybe I should explain that Hades in the Greek-speaking world didn't refer to a place of punishment. It was merely the dwelling place of the dead. It was the great unknown, the mysterious place everyone went after leaving this world. Jesus says, "Don't be afraid of death nor what comes after ... I've got the keys to let you out of that place!"
Are you scared of death? You don't have to be. In the book of Hebrews, the author says that Jesus destroyed the power of death by his own death so that he could "free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Hebrews 2:15). We don't have to live our lives fearing death. Jesus died, but he's alive now. He went into the place of the dead and came out with the keys. We can enter that mysterious realm without fear, knowing that our Jesus holds the key to let us out again.
Don't be afraid! Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). He has freed us from the fear of death. If you'd like to know more about how to face death without fear, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment at http://hopeforlife.org/blog .