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The Last To Die

Perhaps the greatest irony (and the greatest justice) about death is that death itself is going to be put to death. Death deserves the death penalty.

"And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and if any one's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:13-15 RSV)

"And I saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the Throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them; He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:2-4 RSV)

Death Itself Will Be The Last To Die

"Upon this Rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-19 KJV)

Sheol The word translated by the King James Version as "gates" in the verses above (the RSV uses "powers of death" where the King James uses "gates of hell") is the Greek word (pronounced) poo-lay and means a door, or a barrier. The word translated as "hell" in the verses above is the Greek word (pronounced) hay-deez, and simply means the grave (to understand how the word "hell" is also used for a place of fire, see Where Is Hell?, also Planet On Fire!). The "gates of hell" as spoken by Jesus Christ in the example above means death, or more specifically, that which holds the dead locked in death (again, the RSV much more accurately translates the actual original Scripture as "powers of death" than the King James' "gates of hell").

At the fulfillment of the Messiah's mission, the "gates of hell" (i.e. the "powers of death") were temporarily breached for some of God's people; that is, their graves were opened and some of them were awakened from their "sleep" (see What Happens When You Die?). Some "who had fallen asleep" (see below) and came out of their graves to resume their physical lives for a while, for the purpose of a further witness of the Messiah, both for the people of that time who saw them, and for the people of all time who read of them in the Word of God:

"And behold, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two [see Why Was It Torn?], from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many." (Matthew 27:51-53 RSV)

The "gates of hell" will be opened, that is, the graves of the dead will be opened, for Judgment (see also When Will You Be Judged?)

"Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life [see Resurrections], and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:28-29 RSV)

In the end, "the gates of hell" for the righteous will no longer exist, because death, for the righteous, will no longer exist:

"For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:53-55 RSV)

Fact Finder: What is meant by "bind and loose"?
See Bind and Loose

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