Let’s read this passage from the New King James Version: “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.”

I would like to answer your last question first. Does Satan (the devil) hold the power of death? This does NOT mean that Satan has the power to kill whoever he chooses. How do we know that? If you read Job chapter one you will see that Satan challenged God by telling Him, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and TOUCH ALL THAT HE HAS, and he will surely curse You to Your face” (verses 9-11). We see God’s response in verse 12, “Behold, all that he has is IN YOUR POWER; only do not lay a hand on his person.” God, in His sovereignty, allowed Satan to use his power to attack Job but he was not allowed to harm Job. In verses 13-19 we see that Satan stripped Job of all his possessions and his children. He even brought a great wind which caused the death of children, but he was not allowed to lay a hand on Job. This passage clearly teaches us that Satan cannot kill someone unless God allows him to. This means he “does NOT have the power to bring death to anyone by an act of his own will”; he can only act if it is within God’s will.

I believe this passage is teaching us that the devil, who “introduced death into the world by his temptation of the woman in the garden of Eden” (Genesis 3:1-6; 2nd Corinthians 11:3 and Romans 5:12), uses “the fear of death” to bring men into bondage, bondage to sin and bondage to him. We read of this bondage in John 8:34 & 44 where Jesus told the Jews, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a SLAVE OF SIN…You are of your father the devil, and THE DESIRES OF YOUR FATHER YOU WANT TO DO.” But thanks be to God for designing a way to “release us from the fear of death and thus from the devil who wields this power over us.” God knew that to strip the devil of this power He had to send His Son to earth to become a Man so He could die for sinners and “destroy him who had the power of death.” In other words, Jesus Christ would defeat Satan by His death on the cross. The devil whispers in man’s ear, “You are a sinner and deserve to die,” but Jesus took the sinner’s place in death and by doing so He has destroyed (or “annulled”) the devil’s power over those who believe in Christ as their Savior. The believer no longer fears death, for he/she knows that Jesus Christ “abolished death,” as we see in 2nd Timothy 1:10, “who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” It is true the believer may still die, but it is no longer as a penalty for sin, and death itself will usher us into the very presence of our Savior in heaven! The Apostle Paul could say, “For to me, to live is Christ, and TO DIE IS GAIN….I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire TO DEPART AND TO BE WITH CHRIST, which is far better” (Philippians 1:21, 23). Dear fellow-believer, WE ARE NOW FREE! We are free from “the fear of death”; we are free from being in “bondage to sin”; and we are free from being in “bondage to the devil.” Praise be to God the Father and His beloved Son for this amazing deliverance!  (DO)  (559.3)