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Easter Season in Song: The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done (LSB 464)

–By Elizabeth Ahlman

The Harrowing of Hell

The Harrowing of Hell

This week’s Season in Song hymn, “The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done” (LSB 464) was chosen by Missionary Linda Rinne. Linda and her husband, Missionary Rev. Rex Rinne, are based in the Czech Republic. They are tasked with providing care for the other missionaries of the region. They do this through encouraging, visiting and lending help where they can. Rev. Rinne also provides Word and Sacrament ministry to several of the Globally Engaged in Outreach (GEO) missionaries stationed in places where there is no partner church.

The hymn is performed by Rev. Dr. Christopher S. Ahlman and the video is by Rick Steenbock.

  1. He broke the age-bound chains of hell;
    the bars from heav’n’s high portals fell.
    Let hymns of praise His triumph tell. Alleluia!
  1. Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,
    From death’s sting Thy servants free
    That we may live and sing to thee. Alleluia!

In the last two verses of this hymn, one of the things that I am reminded of is how Christ’s death and resurrection grants us full access to heaven, God the Father and eternal life. “The Strife is O’er, The Battle Done” joyously proclaims Christ’s resurrection and some of the results of His victory. As the tomb has opened, so also have hell and heaven opened, but in different ways. In depictions of the “harrowing of hell” as in the image above and those in the video, Christ descends into hell to break its power. In the Early Church, this often was depicted as Christ bringing out the Old Testament saints. While this is not a view in Lutheran theology, the powerful picture it gives of rescue from the mouth of hell and death itself is one with which we can resonate.

Dead in our sins and apart from Christ, we all come into this world deserving death and sentenced to the “chains of hell.” In our sinful nature as we have received it from Adam on down through the ages, we had no will, no goodness, no want and no ability to draw near to God or save ourselves. Daily, we have sinned and continue to sin much. These sins should condemn us to eternal damnation in hell. We deserve to be swallowed up by the mouth of death and hell.

However, Jesus opens two doors or portals with one stroke as He dies our deaths and is resurrected again. In dying our deaths for us, He opens the jaws of death and hell and snatches us out from them. His resurrection confirms His victory and His death and life become ours in our Baptisms. We die and rise with Him never again to die. We are pulled out of the mouth of hell and allowed to enter into the portals of heaven, without ever having to reach up to get there. He brings the gates of heaven to us and we enter in every Sunday as we feast upon His body and blood given into death for us. And when at last we face our deaths, we can face them without fear of what our sins have done to separate us from God because Christ Jesus has made us His own in our Baptisms, forgiven us our sins, strengthened and preserved us in the faith through His Holy Supper, snatched us out of the mouth of death and hell and brought us to everlasting resurrected life in Him. That is certainly something to sing about!

Let us Pray: Heavenly Father, teach us to repent and believe even as our sins threaten to separate us from You and give us always to remember that in Your Son, Jesus Christ, we have been forgiven, rescued from death and hell and brought into eternal life where we can worship You with joy and without fear; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

  • Please note the following credits for the recording used in the video: Hauptwerk: This non-commercial production, legal by virtue of product purchase, was made possible in part by Hauptwerk Virtual Pipe Organ instrument software. © 2014 Milan Digital Audio LLC. All rights reserved.Organ Art Media: The use of the 1686/1720 Bosch/F. C. Schnitger organ for this non-commercial production was made possible by the gracious permission of Prof. Helmut Maier. © 2014 OrganArt Media 2006 Kusterdinger Straße 48 D-72827 Wannweil. All rights reserved.© 2015 Christopher S. Ahlman. All rights reserved.
  • Please pray for the Rinnes as they travel to serve their fellow missionaries throughout the region with encouragement, Word and Sacrament and more.

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