Emperor Domitian deemed the aged Apostle John a threat to the Roman Empire. Domitian canceled John banishing him to the deserted isle of Patmos. His planned backfired. John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. As he worshiped, the Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself to John.
John’s persecution was a microcosm of what churches throughout the Roman Empire faced. The Lord wanted them to know that he cared. He wanted them to know that he was at work and would prevail in the end. The Lord commissioned John to write seven churches in Asia Minor. Before John could represent Christ, he needed to see Christ in his glory. Here is a lesson for all who would serve the Lord: Wonder must come before work.
Revelations 1:14-16 records John’s vision of the glorified Christ: “The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished brass, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun thing in full strength.”
Verse 17 records John’s response to this glorious vision: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.”
- It is the response of the human to the divine.
- It is the response of the creature fo its Creator.
- It is the response of the sinful to the Holy.
John was on of Jesus’ best friends. He is called “The Beloved Disciple.” With Peter and James, John witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus. John aw the resurrected Christ on multiple occasions before his Ascension. This, however, was different. This was not the meek and lowly Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ was terrifying. The glory of Christ overwhelmed John.
In Revelation 19:10, John fell at the feet on an angel, who said, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” Jesus did not rebuke John’s worship. He reassured John with a touch and a word.
Verse 17 says, “But he laid his right hand on me.” With his hand of strength and favor, the Lord touched John. Then the Lord said, “Fear not.” Grammatically, the command forbids action in progress. It is a cease-and-desist order: “Stop being fearful.” Then Jesus tells John why he should not fear. It is because of the true identity of Jesus. The one who is the cause of fear is the cure for fear. There is no reason to fear if you know the true identity of Jesus.
A high school teacher lectured me about my name. He claimed my signature would be easily compromised. He warned that I should fill out my initials before I entered the “real world.” He was wrong.
What is the signature of Jesus?
I believe if Jesus signed his name, it would be with the words of Revelation 1:17-18: “I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I all alive forevermore, and I have the keys to Death and Hades.”
Charles Simeon wrote: “A more glorious description of Jesus is not to be found in all the sacred writings.” Revelation 1:17-18 gives three reasons why those who know the true identity of Jesus have no reason to fear.
Jesus is the Lord of Life.
In verses 17-18, Jesus makes five unmistakable claims of deity. Those five direct statements are undergirded by one subtle statement. Verse 17 says, “I am.” This is more than the beginning of the larger declaration. It is what the Jewish religious leaders would have called “blasphemy.” Jesus made himself equal with God.
“I am” is the covenant name of God.” In Exodus 3:14, the Lord revealed his name to Moses at the burning bush: “I am who I am.” It means the Self-Existent One. This name is called the Tetragrammaton. It is four Hebrew consonants with no vowels. If you will, it is God’s initials. The Israelites pronounced it Yahweh or Jehovah. They did not pronounce it often. It was the ineffable name. God’s name was so holy, it was only spoken with care and caution.
Jesus dared to identity himself with the signature of God. John 8:58 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus is the Lord of life. He makes this claim two way in the text.
The First and the Last. This divine title. Isaiah 41:4 says, “I, the Lord, the first, and with the last, I am he.” Isaiah 44:6 says, “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no God.” Isaiah 48:12 says, “I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.” Jesus says, “I am the the first and the last.”
Revelation 1:16 says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” The First and the Last is synonymous with the Alpha and the Omega. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Omega is the last letter. God had the first word. God will have the final word. Alpha and Omega describes deity in terms of language. First and the Last describes deity in terms of time. No one comes before the first. No one comes after the first. Jesus sets the boundaries of creation, time, and history.
So what? If Jesus is the first and the last, nothing in the middle can overthrow him. He is the God of the middle. He is God in real-time. He is God right now. The Lord is sufficient to meet every need in your life. The past, present, and future are in his hands. Hebrews 13:8 says, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
The Living One. Nebuchadnezzar credited himself for Babylonian Empire. The Lord turned the king into a wild animal until he gave glory to God. In Daniel 4:34, Nebuchadnezzar testified, “I bless the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever.” Psalm 90:2 says, “From everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
This is an incommunicable attribute of God. God is eternal. Revelation 4:9-10 says, “And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever.”
In verse 18a of our text, Jesus claims to be “the living one.” This is the only place where this title is used of Jesus. But it is consistent with the biblical portrait of him. Jesus does not just have life; he is life. He is the living one. John 5:26 says, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. The only way to God is through Christ. John 14:6 says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the answer to the big questions you are asking:
- How can I be saved? “I am the way.”
- How can I be sure? “I am the truth.”
- How can I be satisfied? “I am the life.”
Jesus is the Lord of Death.
Verse 18 says, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.” The glorified Christ John saw at Patmos was the incarnate Christ he knew from Galilee. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” The Lord’s earthly mission was not a failure for two reasons:
Jesus Died. How many people die and live to tell it? Jesus said, “I died.” The grammar bluntly states it as a historical and literal fact: “I became dead.” In verse 17, John fell at the Lord’s feet “as though dead.” John almost died; Jesus actually died.
Critics try to explain away the resurrection with “the swoon theory.” They claim Jesus became unconscious on the cross and regained consciousness in the tomb. Jesus says, “I died.” It is a mystery the mind cannot comprehend, and the tongue cannot explain: The living one died! the Bible does not try to tell us how this happened. the Bible focuses on why it happened.
Revelation 5:9-10 says, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” God is holy. We are sinful. God judges sin. We need a substitute. Jesus died on the cross as our substitute. Run to the cross! Revelation 5:10 says, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”
Jesus Lives. Verse 18 says, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.” The statement of the resurrection of Jesus is introduced with the word, “Behold.” The term does not reflect surprise. It reveals emphasis.
The crucifixion does not make sense without the resurrection. The resurrection confirms the finished work of Christ. Acts 2:24 says, “God raised him up, looking the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” The world says it was not possible for Jesus to rise from the dead. the Bible says it was not possible for death to hold him! Jesus is our crucified but risen Savior.
Verse 18 assumes the reality of the resurrection and asserts the result of the resurrection: “I am alive forevermore.” There is a difference between resurrection and resuscitation. Jesus raised three people from the dead. All three died again. Jesus is alive forevermore. Romans 6:9 says, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no long has dominion over him.”
So what? Hebrews 7:25 says, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus aves because Jesus lives.
Jesus is the Lord of Eternity.
Verse 18 says, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys to Death and Hades.” Death and Hades are used synonymously here. Death is the state in which the soul separates from the body. Hades is the place where the soul goes when it departs the body. The language here does not refer to the grace where the dead body goes or Hell where the condemned soul goes. The terms the inescapable facts of life, death, and eternity:
- Life is short.
- Death is near.
- Eternity is real.
Death and Hades are capitalized in my Bible. It suggests Jesus personifies Death and Hades. We must check out of here one day. Death will claim the body. Hades will claim the soul. But Death and Hades cannot determine your eternal destiny. Jesus has the keys to Death and Hades.
Matthew 16:18 says, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall now prevail against it.” Keys control gates. No gate can prevail against the church because Jesus is the sovereign Key-Holder.
In our culture, keys represent access. One who has keys is free to enter and exit. A mayor may give a person “the key to the city.’ It is a symbolic honor. It does not mean that person can show up at city hall and take over the municipality.
In scripture, keys represent authority, not access. Jesus says, “I have the keys to Death and Hades.” Jesus exercises complete authority over the domain of Death and Hades. Jesus determines who gets locked up and who gets liberated.
John 5:28-29 says,” Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgement.”
Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesu that their brother Lazarus was sick. Jesus loved Lazarus but delayed going to Bethany When he arrived, it was too late. Lazarus was dead. The funeral was over. His body was in the tomb. In the face of death, Jesus claimed to be the Lord of eternity. John 11:25-26 says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Do you believe this?
As a frequent traveler, I know what it is to mix up keys. I have traveled from one city to another city. I go to my hotel room. And my keycard does not work. I later discovered the keycard I tried to use was from a hotel in a different city. Life without Christ is like trying to open new doors with old keycards. Only Jesus has the master key to life.