When Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died for the sins of men, He qualified to dethrone Satan. The "god of this world" has been defeated! However, he remains active among us until the King of kings returns and sets up His government on earth.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Basic Doctrines: Satan's Origin and Destiny
The purpose in this section of Hebrews is to provide us with a foundation of truth regarding how we are freed from the condition we were in before we were called, converted, and made Christians and part of God's Family. Hebrews 2:9-11 adds key information to clarify our understanding:
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He by the grace of God might taste death for everyone. 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.
These verses introduce the solution. Jesus is the means by which we, the many sons, are made perfect, that is, brought to completion and made free from this bondage imposed on us. Our Creator had to first become completely identified with us: human. This is important because Jesus is the means by which we are not only made free and holy at the beginning of our conversion, but this same One also keeps us free throughout our conversion. Those who are truly holy by God's standard are those who will escape death.
This holiness or sanctification is not a static, unchanging state but a growing, lifelong, continually forming one. It is helpful to be reminded of John 8:31-36, which concludes with the statement that "if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."
The Son sets us free. However, a key element pinpointing our responsibility in this relationship is the word abide, mentioned by Christ in John 8:35: “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.” It means “to live,” “to continue,” “to go on.” We must recall Romans 5:10 and be very thankful: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” This truth confirms that we are saved by His life, that is, He is our living High Priest. “I will never leave nor forsake you,” He declares (Hebrews 13:5).
Our responsibility, then, is to continue being faithful to Christ, striving to overcome sin, and as this occurs, He, as our High Priest, continues to keep us free from backsliding into Satan's bondage. Thus, the work of Christ makes us one with Him and keeps us one with Him.
The author of Hebrews is stating that Jesus, our Savior, and His brothers and sisters all now belong to the same Family. Remember that Jesus, in order to be identified completely with us, became a mortal man, but He, by living a sinless life, escaped the mandatory death penalty. Because of God's calling and faith, we are now linked with Him spiritually and can look forward to everlasting life.
Hebrews 2:14 is saying that in order for us to be freed from bondage to Satan and the fear of death, Christ had to become human and able to die because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Thus, nothing less than the death of our sinless Creator, living as a man, could suffice for us to be freed from the death penalty by means of His substitutionary death on the cross. God paid a huge price for our freedom from the fear of death.
This was not His only great accomplishment. He also lived sinlessly, and in doing so defeated Satan, who has the power of death, as he lost the struggle to induce Jesus, the second Adam, the beginning of the new creation, to sin. The Adversary had won this struggle over Adam and Eve and all their children, but Jesus took the weapon of death from Satan's hands. Because we are one with Christ, that weapon no longer hangs over us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eight): Death
Some religions make no mention of Satan as a reality. Others include him as a reality and enemy, yet they make little or no accounting of him actively working to destroy mankind and God's purpose. Jesus makes no bones about Satan actively working to destroy men. In John 8:44, in accusing the Jews of unbelief, He puts Satan's nature in plain words:
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
Satan is clearly responsible for drawing Adam and Eve into the first of mankind's sins, opening the floodgate to the sins of all of their progeny, all physical and mental sickness, countless emotional agonies, and the billions of deaths that mankind has experienced.
God makes it clear that the wages—the ultimate penalty—earned by one's sins is death (Romans 6:23). The sobering truth of this matter is that it takes only one sin for God to impose the death penalty! He warned Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they ever sinned, "In the day you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17). The death penalty falls immediately on anyone who sins, even if it is the first time!
Any religion that is without Christ leaves the door open to thoughts that salvation can be earned by means of good works. The idea is that the evil an individual has done in the past can be compensated for by doing good deeds. This is the very charge the apostle Paul lays against the Jews in Romans 10:1-4:
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
In order for one to be justified before God and accepted by Him requires a righteousness that no man who ever sinned even one time can achieve. No amount of good works can compensate for even one sin. God will accept only the righteousness of One who has never sinned, and He will accept that payment only when a repentant sinner by faith believes.
Peter's statement in Acts 4:12 confirms that salvation is found nowhere else: "There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (emphasis ours). Christ's involvement in the forgiveness of sin for salvation is imperative; there is no alternative! Peter is not saying we can be saved or may be saved. The word "must" reveals necessity according to God's decree. Salvation is found through no other person and no other way of life except through the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth.
Salvation denotes deliverance or preservation from harm or evil. In this case, it is deliverance and restoration from the effects of sin. The result, then, is deliverance from eternal death (unless one goes on from that point to commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus says God will not forgive; see Matthew 12:31-32). This is because salvation begins upon one's repentance from his sins and faith in the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. This combination of acts justifies a person before God, and no human works, regardless of their quality or quantity, are acceptable for the forgiveness of sins.
Does any other religion have a Savior with the qualifications of Jesus Christ? No other religion offers such a magnanimous gift. Forgiveness, and therefore justification, is available only through that perfect sacrifice, along with the sincere repentance of a believing sinner who exhibits faith in the God/Man Jesus Christ and in God's grace. God will then give us of His Spirit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?
It is true that in all of us exists a measure of apprehensive awareness of death that influences our attitudes and conduct. This fear affects everyone to some degree, whether intensely or feebly, because this particular fear has a spiritual source.
Notice that verse 15 says that through the fear of death we are held in bondage all our lifetime. It does not suggest a never-ending dread, but instead a vague influence on conduct, an uncertainty wrapped within a measure of hopelessness, because we do not fully believe God-given truths about death.
God does not put people in the kind of bondage implied by this context. The author is referring to bondage to sin. We know that the source of this fear is Satan. Most of the world believes his many horrible lies regarding death: The living fear the thought of people shrieking in an ever-burning place that allows no spot of respite from fearsome pains. Some think of death as endless unawareness and others of wandering, always detached, in the vast emptiness of space.
Though humanity is certainly aware of death, it does not stop people from sinning, largely because most do not make a thoughtful, believing connection between their own sins being the direct cause of death and of Satan being their spiritual father, even as Jesus told the Jews (John 8:44). They are thus held in bondage to this deceptive, Satan-induced ignorance. As long as death seems far in the future, people generally do not pay it much attention. However, the fear still resides in their minds and influences their conduct because of not believing God's truth. So, most people do not fear to sin except for some social embarrassment because they do not make a clear, knowledgeable, believing connection between their personal sins and their own deaths.
In addition, Hebrews 2:14 tells us that Satan has the power of death. Again, people do not fear Satan very much either, and many do not even believe that he exists. Nevertheless, their ignorance does not negate the fact of their bondage. They are not aware who their slave master is, but he is a person and has a name.
Hebrews 2:14-15 and its associated verses tell us that Christ died for us to break the hold Satan had on us and any that he still has on us through fear of eternal death that might remain within us. We do not die the hopeless second death that the unconverted are still held to. We are free to turn voluntarily to God, choosing to submit in obedience to Him.
To summarize, we do not have to sin in the face of Satan's powers. We still occasionally will, but we do not have to submit to the spiritual power that Satan uses against us. The enslavement is broken. Satan is no longer our father and master.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eight): Death
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Hebrews 2:14:
2 Timothy 3:1-5
1 Peter 3:18-20