Night was falling. My family and I were in the Philippines. And my father-in-law locked himself out of his apartment, which contained not only the key but his money and travel documents. Everything you aren’t supposed to let out of your sight while traveling was locked in that room!
To make things worse, we couldn’t find anyone who had a master key. Without access to his valuables, Dad couldn’t prove his identity and couldn’t even pay for help. This would have been an inconvenient situation, even if we’d been at home in California. But we were in another country, and Dad was getting frantic. We needed a locksmith!
But finding a professional to open a locked door while in a foreign country isn’t easy. I googled locksmiths in the part of Metro Manila we were visiting. One was ridiculously overpriced. The other turned out to be a hair salon!
After what seemed like an eternity—and with the help of our building’s manager—a maintenance man turned up. All he had with him was a hammer, some screwdrivers, and a few wrenches. Would this guy be any help at all?
Our amateur locksmith employed a combination of experimentation, finesse, and bouts of brute force. After half an hour we were still locked out. By then the door and lock were in such bad shape that any hope of getting a full damage deposit back was gone. Undaunted, he kept trying—while I privately envisioned having to break down the door to get to our valuables.
Just as we were starting to give up hope, we heard a click. At last! Our makeshift locksmith friend was officially crowned our hero. I held our rescuer in special regard for the rest of our stay in the country.
Revelation 1:17, 18 tells us that Jesus is the ultimate Locksmith. He isn’t just the solution to a momentary inconvenience. He doesn’t turn up with a box of tools that may or may not work. Jesus has “the keys of death and Hades [the grave]” (verse 18). Jesus offers Himself as the solution to the ultimate human predicament: being locked out of eternal life. Because He holds the keys to death itself, Jesus has robbed final destruction of its power.
Jesus rose from the dead. He broke free of its captivity. He told Martha, who had just suffered the heartbreaking loss of her brother, Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25). His words of encouragement to a grieving sister should bring us both solace and strength today. Jesus has stolen death’s thunder. He has unlocked death.
In the face of death, on our own, we humans can feel only despair. We don’t hold the keys to unlock our tragic fate. We all succumb to it sooner or later. Regardless of all we may accomplish on this earth, our lives are finite, and they can feel meaningless. We may ask with Job, “If someone dies, will they live again?” (Job 14:14). Without hope in Christ there is every reason to dread death. It’s only natural that we have a hard time dealing with the finality of it.
Some of the most brilliant thought leaders and captains of industry who live today are obsessed with life extension. Take Peter Thiel, the outspoken billionaire and cofounder of PayPal. His modest goal is to live to 120. Then there’s Dmitry Itskov, known as the “godfather” of the Russian Internet. He aims to live until he’s 10,000! Google’s cofounder, Sergey Brin, went so far as to say that he hopes to “cure death.” Brin is so convinced he can achieve this goal that he’s leading an all-out assault on mortality with what’s called Project Calico. The company plans to spend billions on a pharmaceutical partnership aimed at building a drug that can dramatically extend lifespans.
Living for today
Another way that modern Western culture battles the certainty of death is to simply live for the moment. Twentieth-century philosopher and Cambridge University lecturer Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote that “eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.”
While it’s true that there’s much value in choosing to practice being present and living in the moment, such a philosophy taken to its hedonistic extreme can lead to completely irresponsible behavior today and an utter disregard for tomorrow.
This kind of short-term thinking misses the bigger picture. When the Son of man approaches John on the isle of Patmos, He reassures His disciple, saying, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17, 18).
In the same breath that Jesus encouraged John not to be afraid, He confirmed His ultimate sacrifice of death on our behalf, which is one guarantee of the decisive victory that we can have over death through Him. When Jesus says that He has the keys of hell and the grave, He’s telling us that He is the heavenly Locksmith who’s ready and willing to save us from extinction.
The apostle Paul says that the last enemy that will be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:26). Did you get that? The source of destruction will itself be destroyed. Knowing that death will be defeated gives us a tremendous perspective on how to approach life today. It gives us meaning. It means we can live with hope.
Death frightens most of us, but hope in Christ gives us great reassurance. His victory over death gives us the hope that only true freedom can bring. It provides us with a lens with which to see the long game, neither abandoning ourselves to mindless hedonism nor resigning ourselves to morbid fatalism. Knowing that death doesn’t have the final word liberates us from the despair that’s held by secular worldviews that see only the here and now.
Romans 6:23 begins by reminding us of the devastating reality that “the wages of sin is death.” But the hope we have in Jesus comes in the second half of the verse: “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is the essence of God’s good news for us, boiled down to a single sentence. It provides the happy ending to a story that’s otherwise dark and tragic.
Earlier in his life, decades before he arrived, old and frail, on Patmos, the disciple John recorded some other famous words of Jesus: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Here we see Christ’s true identity. More than a Locksmith, He is the Way to God the Father. He provides the escape from what should have been our awful fate to a life of eternal communion with Him!
Next time you lock yourself out of your house, remind yourself of this beautiful truth. Then call your locksmith.