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life and death

Since therefore the children [people] share in flesh and blood, he himself [Jesus Christ] likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the diabolos [the opposer, the opposition] and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.           Hebrews 2: 14, 15


Many Jersey folk turn daily to the inside back page of the JEP to scan the Births, Marriages and Deaths – the hatched, matched and dispatched.

It's the dispatched that brings the shiver.


The writer of an open letter (extract above) to Hebrew (Jewish) Christians in the 1st century AD was right in saying that the fear of death makes us subject to "lifelong slavery".


The slavery comes about because, just as a slave of old would work all his life to absolutely no avail (because his work profited only his master), so also death totally nullifies all our strenuous work for ourselves.


From before 1066 the feudal system applied in Jersey. As that began to be overturned, here and elsewhere, many wealthy landed proprietors attempted to do the next best thing. They decided to tie up their property in trust for their eldest sons - and after to his eldest son - and so on in perpetuity. A French word is still used to describe this: "mortmain" - from "mort" (dead) and "main" (hand) - a dead hand still grasps the property. Maybe the lifetime slavery of death was not the end – they had control of property even though they were dead.


But that didn't work either - for two reasons. First, even when heirs did not completely die out, property inherited by an elder son eventually found its way to one with no money to keep it all going. He found that he could not sell it. Nor could he borrow against it because a lender needs to have the right to take ownership of the land if the borrower defaults. So some properties became derelict and abandoned.


Second, when land was tied up in this way it was seen by others as a method of keeping wealth in the hands of a few - for ever and ever.  That prejudiced the upward mobility of others. Laws were passed to put a stop to the practice - in Jersey and Britain - from the 17th century onwards.


The Trusts (Jersey) Law 1984 continued this general prohibition but was reversed a year or two ago to re-allow “perpetual trusts” because they are much in demand by finance industry clients in respect of their property all over the world. The clients long for a way of preserving their "alter ego" in perpetuity - even when their "ego" is actually dead.


Back to the words in bold above. How are folk to be delivered from a lifetime of slavery to inevitable death?


First of all, how does the diabolos, the opposer, have the power of death? The diabolos opposes life - opposes God, the source of life, and opposes the men and women to whom God gave - and gives - life.


To achieve his ends, the diabolos attracted men and women to work and serve only themselves, to devote their life to themselves only, to forget about the death that would inevitably enslave them because they would have (permanently) forsaken the only source of life.


How then does Jesus Christ "deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to slavery"? Well, Jesus became a partaker in "flesh and blood" like us ---- and died. He then rose from the dead (AD 33, Jerusalem). In doing that he dealt a deathblow not only to the one who had the power of death but also to death itself.


So this Jesus Christ delivers "all those who through fear of death were subject to slavery" by giving them his everlasting life, his resurrection life - right now - in Jersey - through re-attachment to him as the source of life.

"I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labour. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun." (Solomon, King of Israel, BC 971-931)
‘Death takes away the difference between king and beggar, and tumbles both the knight and the pawn into one bag.'  (Thomas Adams, English playwright, 1583-1652)
Richard Syvret

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