One With The Keys To Hades (rev. 1:16-18)

… and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. (Rev 1:16-18)

The picture of royal authority and magnificence is further amplified by the shining sun-like light emanating from the Son of Man. In Mathew 17:1-2 at the transfiguration event of Christ similar description was used. There we read,

“Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.”

The difference between the book of Revelation and the Matthew’s account is simple – in the gospels Jesus’ transfiguration is a temporary glance, but in the Letter of Revelation it is permanent. So overwhelming was the vision of John that he found himself on the floor struck and paralyzed with fear. This is what happened to the disciples at the appearance of the cloud during Jesus’ transfiguration. The hand of the Son of Man quickly touched John and the words of comfort followed. The Son of Man told him not to be afraid, since he was once dead, but now is alive forever. Not only that, but the ultimate authority over death itself and the entire kingdom of darkness now belonged to the resurrected Son of Man (the keys of death and of Hades were now in his hand).

Holding keys to a particular domain is a clear sign of ability to exercise authority connected to that domain. Keeping doors closed or opening them always restricts or allows access. During this time in Jewish religious though we see many references to this general idea. In Matt 16:19 Peter is promised the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. In Matthew 23:13 Jesus speaks of Pharisees and Scribes not entering the Kingdom and keeping others locked out as if they had the authority and ability to do so. In Luke 11:52 parallel the Pharisees have taken away the “key of knowledge” so people cannot enter. In 3 Baruch 11:1-3 Michael the archangel is described as holding the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven,

1 And the angel took me and led me thence to a fifth heaven. 2 And the gate was closed. And I said, Lord, is not this gate-way open that we may enter? And the angel said to me, We cannot enter until Michael comes, who holds the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; but wait and thou shalt see the glory of God. 3 And there was a great sound, as thunder. (3 Baruch 11:1-3)

Not only the Kingdom of Heaven has gates that can be locked and unlocked, but also the Kingdom of Hell (Hades), the underworld has gates as well (Mat 16:18). A Midrash ascribed to Rabbi Akiva cites this tradition,

“In that hour the Holy One, blessed be He, takes the keys of gēhinnōm and gives them to Michael and Gabriel before the eyes of all the righteous, and says to them: Go and open the gates of ḡhinnōm … Forthwith Michael and Gabriel go and open the 40,000 gates of ḡhinn̄om”.

Jesus as the resurrected Son of Man, one whose face radiates God’s glory has the authority and control not only in heaven, but also in Hell (Hades). A passage often mistakenly published in the appendix of Josephus’ writings that was written by Hyppolitus of Rome (beginning of 3rd century CE) explains about the idea of the Hades as understood by him,

“Hades is a place in the world not regularly finished; a subterraneous region, wherein the light of this world does not shine; from which circumstance, that in this region the light does not shine, it cannot be but there must be in it perpetual darkness.” (Discourse on the Greeks concerning Hades, Dissertation V, 1).

In the light of this popular idea that hades are associated with deep darkness, it makes perfect sense that the face of Jesus shines like the sun at its strength (vs.16). Moreover, it is understandable why John is told not to be afraid.

Lastly, Jesus calls himself the first and the last possibly referring to the Alpha and Omega title. But he is also the risen one, the one who is alive right now. One can see the three aspects (past, future and present) in this symbolic statement. This phrase is similar to the skillfully veiled reference of יהוה, the one “who is and who was and who is to come” in Rev.1:8-9.


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  1. Andrew Wright

    I have always understood from scripture that Hades/Sheol and Gehenna are two separate places, the latter referring to the Lake of Fire. But Rabbi Akiva’s madras seems to run contrary to this. Would anyone care to comment?

  2. RamonAntonio

    Two aspects call my atention in this reading: one, the shinning light of the face of Jesus and His holding of the keys.

    I recently heard a very interesting proposal along the lines of the Transfiguration. Couldn’t it be posed that it was not Jesus who Transfigured Himself,ie, changed in appearance, but that He revealed Himself as He is to the disciples who were up to that moment incapable of seeing Him as He really Is? Then, Jesus may have transfigured them in order for them to be able to see Him as He really is.

    The proposal is very interesting because in fact the apostles wanted to stay in their new place which language may suggest that in fact they felt they were actually somewhere else with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. I also add my own contribution which is that these two biblical figures were the only ones in Scripture that actually saw God face to face.

    On the second point, the holding of the keys is related with many of Jesus preachings. His continuous mention of Him being the door, the stair, the Way in reference to road, the One who pardons sin and the Liberator of the people of Israel are akin to being the One who holds the keys. He is also the Giver of the keys of Heaven to Peter. So authority is in Him. 12 timss He says in John,s Gospel I Am.

  3. Colin Bentley

    Wow….. Just des covered this site. Loving the debate, insight and scholarly study. Very much looking forward to further reading, study and understanding as I too search for truth.

    Thank you to those who make this information available and accessible –

    I wish you well in this day if life

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Welcome to Jewish Studies for Christians! Dr. Eli

  4. Eliyahu Leichel

    Yeshua said: you know neither the Scriptures nor the powers of God and again he said you worship who you do not know we worship who we know.
    I have read your comments and this is what I shall tell you in truth as to what revelation reveals. She has fallen Babylon the Great has fallen. The Almighty God through his son Yeshua will destroy all false religion on earth as it is His judgement on them in that He disapproves of their worship. Just as Elijah exposed the false religious teachers in his day who worshipped Baal God will also expose world’s religions.
    It is easy to put different interpretations on scripture but our God is not a God of confusion but a God of peace. All scripture is inspired of God and the ones who know the true interpretation of Scripture are inspired by God through His ruach hakodesh or holy spirit.

  5. jane z. mazzola

    Ok. After searching through some other resources, I see your point. Thanks.

  6. jane z. mazzola

    Thank you, Dr. Eli, for including the info re: the art work. I have been very interested in that also, on each of the posts.
    Next, in answer to Kate’s question, you said in reference to John’s Gospel, “that Jesus is shown not simply as the Messiah, but as divine.” Not the same? What is the difference?
    Thanks again, Jane

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Messiah may or may not be divine Messiah. In John he clearly is.


  7. Keefa

    Greeting Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg. Did the Yehudim(Jews) in antiquity believe that Michael was doing to come down and be Messiah?

  8. Kate Kaplan

    Dr. Eli, Your cheerful intelligent and polite personality is so refreshing in this darkening, end of days world. I was wondering where does the image of the key in today’s lesson come from? I traced it right off my screen with tracing paper. The LORD is keeping me busy making art that glorifies Him. I may very well use that key
    with the cross shape in its neg. space!
    When I read this post I thought of when Yeshua was arrested by a mob secretly at night, so as not to arouse the thousands of His followers. He was completely calm and fearless. He went forward to meet the mob and asked,”Who is it you want?”
    When they replied,”Yeshua of Nazareth,” He replied,”I AM.”
    Do you agree Dr. Eli that He said HaShem at this moment? The mob’s reaction was that they all drew back and fell to the ground! Another proof that Yeshua was/is absolutely in control at all times; and that He allowed Himself to be arrested and to suffer because this was the only way to redeem US His beloved. Hallelujah to the
    Pesach Lamb!

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Kate, thank you for your kind words. I think that for people to open up and share with each other, the tone of the forum should be welcoming and polite. 🙂 AND it is good to be welcoming and polite in any case :-). OK… back to your point. Yes, I do. The reason actually is not grammatical, but how I see John’s Gospel. In John Jesus is Divine Word of God come in Flesh. This is a high christology Gospel which of course means that Jesus is shown not simply as the Messiah, but as divine. My new book “The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel” is only 2 months away from release :-), so this is my shameless plug for you to look forward to getting it it. One example in John Jesus is Good Shepherd but the Good Shepherd in Ezekiel (a major backdrop of John’s gospel) is the Great I am. Hope this helps.

  9. Dennis Peterson

    If the son of man is the son of God and all authority has been given him, in Heaven and on earth- Jesus would have the keys to life and death. (Sheole, Hades, or he’ll have the same meaning in the ancient language- the keys to the kingdom as King and keys to the common grave of man –
    Jesus would then start at His Father’s command to begin the resurrection on earth as it is in heaven

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      That is the power of the Son of Man.

  10. kamara

    thanks for the good work sir Shalom

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thank you for your kind words and welcome!

  11. Steohen Yang

    Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

    I really happy to learn from most honourble Dr. Eli. I’m ignorance of the Baruch;

    ‘ 40.000 gates of ghinnom’ , or ‘ fifth heavens’. All those were very new information to

    me. andI am very interesting to hear that. I remember that only third heaven(2

    Cor.12:2). Thank you for your great knowledge. שלחם

    Stephen Yang

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I am delighted you could join our study Stephen!

  12. Daphne Brown

    Dear Dr. Eli

    Thank you for opening this discussion. Could you please elaborate more on (1) The Greeks and Hades (Dessertation v.1) and (2) The appendix of Josephus’ by Hyppolitus of Rome.

    How may Christians exercise their authority over the gates of gehinnon?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Daphne, It is not my place to comment on whether people exercise their authority over the gates of Hades, sorry.

      On the Greeks and Hades – read the original attributed to Josephus here –

  13. Catrina

    This article made me think of The LORD in Isaiah 13:9-12 where the heavens do not shine their light, and man will be more precious than fine gold. And Ezekiel 33:30 where the children of Ezekiel’s (son of man) people were talking against him by the doors and walls. Also I reread in Ezekiel 37:12-14 where The Lord GOD would open the graves and put His Spirit in the people <3 <3 <3

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Catrina, thanks for your thoughtful reflection.

  14. Catrina

    Amen! thank you for sharing your studies <3 <3 <3

  15. Karl

    In Revelation 21 -22, J-sus STATES that He is the Alpha and the Omega, in BOTH chapters, verse 6 and 22: 13 . NOT POSSIBLY as you have mentioned .

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Karl, The reason I stated it the way I did is because of the previous discussion of Rev 1:4-8. If you read it I am sure you will see my point about Alpha and Omega.

  16. Cathy

    Thank you for your most interesting post concerning the gates of heaven and hell. I found your thoughts and explanations easy to follow and led me to study more!

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thank you for the feedback!


    I follow all the mail you have sent to me Daniel georges THIBAUD , I love the jewish religion , and Im learning more the about the truth ..

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      So glad you left a comment about the e-mails you get. Lets learn together.


    Dear Dr Eli LIzorkin, Could you tell me when the Hades will be lighten, and why Jesus has not revealed the time it will be ,and what is the mysterious things that god has hold ,do you thinks that the time is near to open the doors for a new world that Human can lives in real peace,

  19. Kat H

    I really enjoy your history lessons! This has helped me to consider two different descriptions of the transformations/mindsets of our writers (John – Rev 1:16-18 & 3 Baruch 11:1-3). If the Keys of death and Hades represents a place not finished, it makes sense that John would describe the beginning of his salvation as death and describe life as the Lord of the Spirits (Jesus’ permanent transfiguration). Baruch, on the other hand, seems to have started with salvation and worked his way backwards to Jesus. This doesn’t sound like a type of Judaism to me. I practiced a form of Judaism and here is a description of my transformation in a non-Biblical language. “I am standing on the edge of Hell (pre-gospel mindset); my feet are starting to slip (accepted Christ). Help me Lord, come quickly—then I felt His Mighty Grip (2 Cor 3:15-18 )”  “who was, and who is, and who is to come”

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      More to come! Glad to hear this.

  20. Sheyla

    Shalom and thank you so much for sharing this! I have a question the hades is the same place as hell? And how does it look?? is it literally full of fire? Thank you again and God bless you.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      This is a question complicated by the tradition and how much people know on the topic. I am planing to have this discussion a little later as I write on Revelation. Would you stay and keep reading till we get to this topic?

      1. Sheyla

        Yes!!!! :0)

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg


  21. Paulo Roberto Motta

    gostaria de receber estudos no meu idioma português / Brasil!!!

    1. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza


      Shalom Paulo!

      Eu te invito a explorar o site em português em:

  22. jane z. mazzola

    Thank you again, for your meditations on these passages, especially Revelation, which seems to engender much speculation, more than analysis, in my opinion. So i’ve always avoided it. Thank you, also, for your own comments and patient, gentle manner. Blessings again, Jane Mazzola

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      It is a pleasure, Jane. This blog is a good and safe place to study Revelation because of the largely non-theological approach. Sure there is theology in my posts but I have nothing to gain in presenting some particular form of theology based in Revelation and thus my historical and literary approach will help people see anther side of the book they might have avoided because of the divisive theology.

      1. nelson abaku

        I really need more on Revelation and the Gospel of John, it strengthens my understanding more every time I read the exposition.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          You are welcome to browse the site archives for lots of articles on these topics.

  23. Cesar ramos

  24. Isabel Saldivar

    SHALOM! Maestro es una gran bendición leer este estudio

  25. Fabian Molina

    Dr Eli deseo recibir el Libro de los Salmos gracias

  26. Fabian Molina

    Dr Eli God Bless you for teaching about our God, also I would like to get the book that you mention thank you again

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thank you for the kind remarks

  27. Gilvan Norberto Ferreira




    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thanks, Ruth, glad you enjoyed it.

  29. Wesley da silva frança Lopes


  30. Wesley

    Muito bem

  31. carlos cartagena

    gracias por darme la oportunida de aprender mas de la palabra

  32. Jerry S.

    In Mat 15:14 Messiah tells the talmidim to disassociate themselves from those sitting in the seat of Moses and Aaron and then passes the authority over to the 12 in Mat 16:19 prior to Rev 1:18.


    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I see your point. Keys are still only a metaphor for authority.

  33. James kelley

    Thanks for teaching and sharing.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Glad you joined us.

      1. JP

        Dr Eli, I am a complete newbie to your teachings as I just joined & this is my 1st teaching to read & study. Although I enjoyed it, I am having a problem finding the book of Baruch??? Where is 3 Baruch in the Bible so I can compare with other translations?

        Blessings & shalom!

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Dear JP, Welcome. 3 Baruch is an extra-biblical text. You can fin such texts published as special editions known as Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.

          If you want to read our Revelation study from the beginning click here

  34. Wilna Pretorius

    Dear Dr Eli, I just joined your forum but if you don’t mind to help me get on track, just to answer my questions? Can you tell me who Jesus is, and if he was the Messiah?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Shalom, Wilna. We welcome anyone on this forum including people that think that Jesus was not the Messiah. We mainly deal with question of history and culture on this blog and not with questions of theology so much. But to answer your question clearly is that I think he is the Messiah, the Logos of God become flesh. So, there you go :-), welcome.

    2. norman ratnayake

      Dear Wilna Pretorius,

      If you read the Word of God, you will find the answer you seek for Jesus is the Messiah. It is written in John Chapter 4: Verse 25,The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” 26Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

      Further in John Chapter 20 verse 31 :But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

      The two versus is from the NIV version and you can look up the net under bible hub and you will find answers you need from the bible. Simply because it gives you from various translation for you to have a deeper understanding.

      This verse is take from Aramaic Bible in Plain English, John 20:31
      But these things are also written that you may believe that Yeshua is The Messiah, the Son of God, and when you believe, you shall have eternal life in his name.

      If I may comment and if I offend anyone I ask of your forgiveness but what I say is from the word of God not my own as I love Jesus and I will defend my Saviour for he is the I am the God that spoke to Abraham, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and who is the God of Isaac and Jacob. he is the same yesterday, today and forever.

      It is God’s chosen people (The Jews) that do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah,( for this reason Jesus turned to the Gentiles) they were waiting for a King in Kingly robe to appear not the son of a carpenter born of a virgin. He came in that form to show us humility, for this reason it is written in Mark Chapter 6 verse 4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”

      As it is written in Aramaic Bible in Plain English:-
      And Yeshua said to them, “There is no Prophet who is despised except in his city and among his kindred and in his house.”

      There are many more that I can tell you but it is good if you start looking into the word of God, for his words brings life and his word is Yea and Amen. Every promise he has made to you in his word and to Abraham he will do. if you do not understand ask for wisdom for God says for those of you who lack wisdom ASK and it will be given graciously.

      I hope this help because we prays for the Jews to know God (Jesus) and to return to him, and I will stop here because I can quote Scriptures to you about this too.

      Take Care Be Blessed

      (A Gentile that love,worships and trust only Jesus with all his Heart)

      1. Don

        Shalom Norman,

        It’s also easy using only Tanach scripture to prove Yeshua as Messiah. This can be an important distinction when teaching Jewish friends, since they don’t recognize the brit chadasha ( the “new testament”) as “scripture” yet. Point them to Isaiah 53, to start.

        Baruch haba b’shem Yeshua!

        1. Wilna

          Hi Don

          Can you explain to me from the Tanach to prove Yeshua as the Messiah? Is there not a line of messiah’s in the Tanach starting the beginning?

  35. Mohammad Afroozeh

    Thanks alot