1

14Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
-- Hebrews 2:14-15 (NKJV)

  1. What is meant by "release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage"?

  2. Are people subject to bondage through fear of death, and does that mean they become slaves to sin because of fear of death (Romans 6:16-18)?

1
  • Hello and welcome to the site! Can you please edit this to add a full quote of the verse from your preferred translation?
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 22 '18 at 11:54
1

The answer to your question is found in later chapters of Hebrews, so there’s a lot of ground to cover to get from chapter 2 to chapter 10.

The simple answer is that those who have been in bondage by the fear of death are those people who are living according to the Old Testament (Old Covenant) attempting to gain God’s righteousness and salvation through their own good works by attempting to keep the commandments and the Law of Moses. Those people are always wondering if they have done “everything” written in the law and thus have a fear of death.

The writer of Hebrews builds a case slowly over the course of the book, explaining the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant.

In Chapter 3, the writer explains the superiority of Christ over Moses, where the Old Testament of the Law of Moses was inferior. The writer explains that God told those who provoked him in the wilderness would not enter into His rest since they did not seek Him by faith.

11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.

Chapter 4 then explains that those who can enter His rest are those who seek God by faith.

Chapter 5 introduces the high priest Melchisedec and the writer explains that God declared that Christ is a high priest after the order of Melchisedec. The writer comes back to Melchisedec in Chapter 7.

Chapter 6 is a brief interlude where the writer states that his audience is immature and in continual need of the milk of the word. He states that those basics include “repentance from dead work”. This is a reference from turning from the OT covenant of keeping the law to the NT covenant of grace.

1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Chapter 7 returns to Melchisedec where the writer tells us that Christ is a priest after the order of Melchisedec who was not a Levitical priest according to the Law of Moses. The writer tells us that the law can make nothing perfect but Christ is perfect due to His endless life. Hence the NT is a better testament than the OT.

15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. 17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. 20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: 21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) 22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

In Chapter 8, the writer tells us that God had promised to make a new covenant with Israel and the result would be that the old one would fade away to be replaced by the new one.

13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

Chapter 9 begins to explain the differences between the physical, earthly nature of the OT covenant as opposed to the spiritual nature of Christ’s sacrifice

11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Chapter 10 is the chapter for your answer.

First the writer states that the law (OT Covenant) is only a shadow of things to come (via the NT) and could never make the worshipers perfect.

1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

However, Christ has perfected them forever via the New Covenant of the sacrifice of Christ offered to all through grace/faith.

11 And every (OT) priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man (Christ), after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

The writer then states that we should continue to walk via God’s grace by faith and not draw back to the OT covenant of the works of the Law. In verse 22, we are told to draw near in full assurance of faith. But if we draw back (verses 26 and 38-39) leaving the NT covenant of grace to go back to the OT works of the law, all that’s left (verse 27) is fear of judgment and perdition (verse 39).

22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

The application here is that is impossible for anyone to attain heaven through the keeping of the OT law; so the OT law only produces fear. But in the NT, the perfect love of Christ, casts out all fear.

0

Hebrews 2:15. John Gill commentary

And deliver them, who through fear of death,.... This is another end of Christ's assuming human nature, and dying in it, and thereby destroying Satan, that he might save some out of his hands:

[who] were all their lifetime subject to bondage; meaning chiefly God's elect among the Jews; for though all men are in a state of bondage to the lusts of the flesh, and are Satan's captives; yet this describes more particularly the state of the Jews, under the law of Moses, which gendered unto bondage; which they being guilty of the breach of, and seeing the danger they were exposed to on that account, were subject, bound, and held fast in and under a spirit of bondage: and that "through fear of death"; through fear of a corporeal death; through fear of chastisements and afflictions, the forerunners of death, and what sometimes bring it on; and through fear of death itself, as a disunion of soul and body, and as a penal evil; and through fear of what follows it, an awful judgment: and this the Jews especially were in fear of, from their frequent violations of the precepts, both of the moral, and of the ceremonial law, which threatened with death; and this they lived in a continual fear of, because they were daily transgressing, which brought on them a spirit of bondage unto fear: and, as Philo the Jew o observes, nothing more brings the mind into bondage than the fear of death: and many these, even all the chosen ones among them, Christ delivered, or saved from sin, from Satan, from the law, and its curses, from death corporeal, as a penal evil, and from death eternal; even from all enemies and dangers, and brought them into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

o Quod omnis Probus Liber, p. 868

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.