In talking about the superiority of Jesus Christ to the angels, the author of Hebrews provides a detailed discussion of how it is that through Jesus Christ believers find life and, not surprisingly, that Satan’s power over humanity is through death, a contrast that is made in Hebrews 2:10-18: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.” And again: “I will put My trust in Him.” And again: “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.” Inasmuch 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, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”
What this passage has to say about death as the power of the devil, and of the power of the fear of death, is something immensely remarkable, and an insight that has not always been credited to Christianity by those who think that only Eastern religions like Buddhism deal with the fear of death that subjects human beings to bondage. It should be noted that this passage is not the only one that draws a contrast between the power of Christ that leads to life and the power of Satan that leads to death, as 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 tells us: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
When we combine these two passages together we gain a full understanding of what Pual and the author of Hebrews (if they are not indeed the same person) mean when contrasting life and death and Jesus Christ and Satan. Death is the ultimate enemy of mankind in the sense that what Satan wanted for mankind from the beginning, from Eden, was to deceive mankind into sinning and through sinning into being condemned by a just God to death. And so it was. Through Adam’s sin all die, both because his sin brought death to humanity but because his sin and the corruption of his nature that happened as a result of sin and separation from God has bent and corrupted the human nature that has been inherited by humankind since Adam, where our own natures encourage us to various sins, where our family example and background do the same, and where we live in corrupt societies and are a part of corrupt institutions that all bring to bear a negative and corrupt influence on our behavior and thinking. It is only through repentance and becoming like Christ through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to, with great effort on the part of God and ourselves, overcome these occasionally crippling vulnerabilities. And it was through sharing in death that Jesus Christ paradoxically freed mankind from both death and the fear of death.
It is striking that the author of Hebrews speaks of this aid not being given to angels. On the one hand, angels do not die as human beings do, and therefore do not need the help that human beings do. Yet there is a way that demons do have the same sort of fears that human beings do, and Jesus Christ’s attitude towards these fears of demons is rather implicit. Let us note two passages. For one, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 tells us: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?” What sort of angels will we judge? If, as seems likely from the passage, we will be judging rebellious angels, in other words, demons, what sort of judgement will they receive? Is there any possibility that demons will be given a penalty other than condemnation? If not, why would it be important that we are judging them in the first place if their fate is already sealed?
Similarly, Jesus Christ gave hope at least implicitly to demons in Luke 8:26-33 by heeding their request not to be sent into the abyss and to be tormented but rather to go into a herd of swine: “Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness. Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss. Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.” In neither of these passages does the Bible give explicit hope to demons, showing that demons are not given the same explicit hope and encouragement that humanity receives regarding forgiveness and restoration to God. As James says in James 2:19: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Among the powers that Satan has over the demons and not over man is the despair of believing that condemnation is foreordained. Why it is that Jesus has not given this hope and encouragement to angels that has been given to humanity is not explained, but remains for us to puzzle over and wrestle for ourselves.