“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades'” (Revelation 1:17-18).
During the Easter season, we sing choruses and shout with joy, “Christ is risen!” Why is this such a great comfort to us? It is because, as He says, He has the keys of Death and Hades. Death and Hell could not hold Him for long because He possesses the keys—He holds the authority—to open the abyss that would otherwise imprison us forever. He is like the warden that walks around with the master key to every prison cell, searching for His sheep whom He might set free from Death and Hell while leaving the goats in their cells (Matthew 25:31-46).
That Christ is risen, the living one, means He has power over death. And He has made a promise with these keys—a promise not to keep the keys on a shelf collecting dust but to use them for our benefit, that is, deliver us from Death and Hell also. That is why whenever a loved one passes away, or we hear of someone’s loved one pass away, we say, “Christ is risen!” For they are only asleep (cf. Matthew 9:24-25).